The art of Ryno Swart
1st April, 2014.

Notes from my studio
. .

Taste the colour.

Colour is sweeter than kisses, sweeter than wine, subtler than mist, more delicate than soap bubbles. In painting, it is never enough just to 'see' a colour.

We have to weigh it, to listen for its hue, and to touch it for its texture. But this is just the beginning, To truly tune in to a colour we have to savour it, to hold iot to the light, to swirl it, to breathe it, and to taste it.

This is why it is better to paint with a big brush, and with a palette knife. It is precisely when you look at a colour and try as you may, you cannot make out any variation of hue, value or intensity, that you have to call on the sense of taste and smell and touch and warmth or coolness. You have to study that colour until it fills you, and then you have to see the colour in your mind, feel it on your skin, and mix it.

This is difficult enough for one colour, but we can and should experience this with every colour. Imagine a mind like this, its purity and translucency, the mind of a Mozart, a Schubert...

Our object is not that the picture should look like something, but that it should communicate to us the play of light and colour and mood and attention.

Workshops. April and May.

April: Tuesday 22 to Friday 25.

Still life painting in oils.
8 sessions, 4 days. Focus on the technique and method of oil painting, taking one still life subject to a high finish.

May: Monday 26 to Friday 30.

Figure painting and drawing in pastel.
10 sessions, 5 days. Life drawing in charcoal and in pastel. Focus is on proportion, anatomy and light and shade.
R 3000.

The workshops runs from 9 till 11 and from 12 until 2.

Climbing Montsegur.

I am not psychic. But.

'Do you remember climbing Montsegur?'

Jean and I were driving home to Simon's Town.

As he replied, we saw, manifesting in perfect synchronicity, the most glorious rainbow in near primary colour, striking down onto the surface of the sea like a heavenly missile.

In 1976 I spent two months isolated in the Languedoc, home of the Troubadours, that mysterious province of France where the Cathars lived and died. My first introduction to Montsegur came in a dream. It was a feverish winter, and I dreamt that I launched myself from the window of a mountaintop castle and swooped down onto the landscape below.

Nearly 30 years later, in 2005, I stood on top of that castle, now with Jean and Anne by my side. It was a pilgrimage to a place seen in a dream, in what is even today, one of the most remote and wildest parts of the world.

There was no revelation that day, no insights, just the closing of a circle.

The history of Montsegur is deeply intriguing. In 1209 Pope Innocent 3 launched a crusade against the Christians of the Languedoc area, which ended here in 1244 when the defenders agreed to surrender but demanded a 14 day truce with hostages offered to the attackers. On the last day these hostages were burnt alive by the invaders, but four leading persons, called "parfaits", escaped by ropes down the sheer side of the mountain, carrying with them the great treasure of Montsegur, thought to be the Holy Grail.

It was getting dark as Anne, Jean, and myself walked down from the ancient fortress. We needed to find a place to sleep before nightfall, but as one we decided not to book into the local pension, but to risk the long drive to Foix, the nearest city.

'No sermons are more Christian than theirs, and their morals are pure.' St Bernard of Clairvaux about the Cathars.

Melody lines and musical colour in art.

Lines have a unique beauty.

In Art Nouveau, artist like Mucha and Beardsley tried to define the perfect curve. But the greatest lines to me are those searching interlacing contours which come from restating an edge. In my watercolour workshop I compared them to the play of melody lines in music. The simplest example is a canon, in which the same line is drawn and redrawn in superimposition:

Fr¸re Jacques, Fr¸re Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Din, dan, don. Din, dan, don.

Such woven lines abound in the drawings of Michelangelo, Ingres and Klimt, but they can also exist in paintings, most naturally in watercolour, and also in oil paintings. In such cases they resemble the more complex form of the fugue.

It is however in the concerto that this form finds it greatest manifestation. The concerto combines the broad colour and texture of the orchestra with the expressive play of line in the solo instrument.

This is what I strive for in my work, always falling short, but always with this clear goal of musicianship.

To fail gloriously. 2. Maria Callas.

'There is one note. One note. When I miss it, I sound like a frog, but when I hit it, all eyes in the audience are filled with tears.'

Maria Callas is right. But she is also wrong. It is not when she hits that perfect note that the audience is moved to tears, but when she fails. Because failure demands 102%


Red Poppy
Ribbons and curls. Oil on canvas. 2011

Red Poppy
A red poppy. Oil on canvas. 2011.


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Ryno Swart Art Gallery

St George's Street, Simon's Town.
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The hands do what the eyes fear.
Russian proverb