Notes on San Remo - and writings Fragments
Memory Fragments: Rex Hausmann | Notes on the painting San Remo
San Antonio is my hometown. Here in SA you can find Mexican Amate paintings everywhere. These paintings, colorfully rendered on bark, show village scenes of people celebrating life and creating memories. The memories formed are like fragments that are woven together through paint and brush. Memories of the people and places in a painter’s life are spun together and are as important as the paint. Here are my memory fragments for my most recent painting “In Search of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon: Notes on San Remo”
Memory Fragment I:
In 2018 after finishing the work completed on my Sheen Center residency and showing the work at the Sheen Gallery in a show called “Stations” my family and I took a trip to San Remo, Italy to visit Carina and Hans Gors at their retirement home overlooking the Mediterranean. For twenty years Carina owned and ran Gallery Nord, a fine arts gallery in San Antonio. Carina is to this day one of the kindest and most knowledgeable art world individuals I have the pleasure of knowing. I had several shows at her gallery, one of which, “Creativity Inc” led to a catalog and an exhibition at The McNay Art Museum in 2015. I will always be grateful to Carina for her encouragement and the opportunities her gallery presented.
While visiting the Gors in San Remo we went with them for a luncheon at a little café (fantastic pasta!) which looked out on a brilliant sky and 30’ stone walls covered with cascading bougainvilleas in bloom. I took pictures of my mother and father in front of those walls. This is the foundation of the painting’s background. An interesting tid bit fact we learned in San Remo is that the flowers in the Nobel Prize Celebration in Stockholm are always from San Remo.
Memory Fragment II:
There are lions in the work which represent my brother Erik and myself. One lion has the phrase “Paint Daily …Life” boldly presented over the globe. That lion which represents me is one of a pair of lions from the front steps of the Hispanic Society of America’s building on 155th Street in New York. The second lion which represents my brother Erik is from San Remo near the home of Alfred Nobel. It has a red rose at its’ base which references Erik’s first and only oil painting which he authored in 1997 when we were in high school. To me, the rose in his work symbolizes his future wife Dacia. To the right of the shield is a fire engine representing Erik’s first son Justice and to the left is a dump truck representing his second son Judge.
The San Antonio tiles at the base of Erik’s lion represent his keyboard since he is constantly on a computer in his work as a consultant for Deloitte. The tiles were a gift to me from one of our artists at the Millworks. Flowers adorn the shield of the lion as well as the globe of the first lion. These crafted flowers are for my grandmother and grandfather who loved to garden. Boompa, my grandfather, tended to his peppers and Nonna, my grandmother, to her flowers. The needlepoint associated with the flowers is for my great grandfather, Papa Dee, who entertained himself in his later years by crocheting. I find it interesting that this man who was all his life a rough and tough Texas rancher could pass his time working with a tiny tool like a crochet hook.
Memory Fragment III:
Bougainvilleas cascade throughout the painting like the flowers against the skyline that Matisse painted in Nice (only 40 miles from San Remo). Perhaps the yellow of Van Gogh is present, the light of Provence and a dream sequence not unlike the paintings of Marc Chagall. Perhaps part of the scale and color comes from the dream sequence of Akira Kiurosawa’sKagemusha from the 70’s The painting is itself created to be cinematic in scale with a fifteen foot span and a nine foot height in three panels. A cast of characters is presented in the work to tell a story, perhaps a non-linear story, but a story nonetheless. Everything must serve a purpose, even a painting. The painting must tell a story which considers the viewer and must be inclusive and accessible to all walks of life.
Memory Fragment IV:
My parents are symbolized by a pair of Japanese Hyttoko and Okame sake bottles given to me by the owners of a local sushi shop, Fugia, which I frequent with a number of my friends. We’d say everything good begins and ends at this restaurant. Fujia has been in operation since 1970 when a samurai family relocated from Japan. Their family sword is on loan in San Antonio with permission to leave Japan which is something of a responsibility. The family samurai armor and heirlooms are presented in a tiny museum at the front of the restaurant. One day George, who owns Fujia with his wife Andie, let me see and touch the armor and sword of his ancestors and presented me with these two saki bottles. The bottles have become metaphors for my own mother and father. Inside the bottles are slips of paper with the signatures of family and friends representing the people in my life. The painting itself is full of people; the reason for all things…the people in one’s life.
Memory Fragment V:
In front of the Duomo are a number of white figures which are uncolored and somewhat ghostly in appearance. These silhouettes represent the countless number of people who have come before us. In some of these images you can see selfiesticks or horses; in others are families with children. They have remained as apparitions on purpose. Think of how many generations have passed before the Duomo in Florence. It took so so long to construct the Duomo… so many generations.
Memory Fragment VI:
The fire in the sky behind the Duomo is a reference to the burning of Notre Dame in Paris in 2019. This is to put a time and place on the painting without being too specific. The color is simply nodding to the fact that something historical happened. That cathedral will yet again be rebuilt. Abbot Suget’s Abby of St. Denis burned in the late 1700’s due to the French Revolution only to be rebuilt as have countless cathedrals since.
Memory Fragment VII:
The Cathedral in the painting is somewhat heavily painted. I have used the paint here as if the paint was a line itself. This comes from my school instruction that said “You should never use paint right out of the tube”. I asked myself “Why don’t you use the tube as the brush?” This gave way to a whole new way of painting…painting as drawing. Truly it was like tapping into some subconscious exhilaration. It was like the childlike images of Miro that we saw at The Foundation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence or the works of Matisse’s Rosary Chapel in Vence. Picasso once said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”.
Memory Fragment VIII:
As I finished the painting our family had just returned from France. I painted in the spot where Cezanne had once painted,viewing Mount Sainte Victoire. and found inspiration in the person of Paul Cezanne, the man from Aix who kept to himself. I have not often thought of Cezanne as his paintings were so…plain. They weren’t the crazy colors of Piet Mondrian’s earlier works or as interesting as Picasso’s or even as expressive as Monet. No, Cezanne has always been so, well…what it was…simple. His self -portrait at the Metropolitan as a priest is brutish and not as expressive as Max Beckman after the war. For twenty years I’ve seen Cezanne and said…well, it’s common…but that commonality is exactly what Cezanne was going for. “With and apple I will astonish Paris!” Cezanne was common in his day and age at the time of the salon …but…WAS HE AHEAD OF HIS TIME! This was way before Charles and Ray Eames or Bucky Fuller or Red Grooms or Duchamp with his urinal; before Art de Povra he was painting with brut lines. Before Modernity there was this man from Provence with his provincial red sash and his quirky ways… He said once ”I’d shake your hand but I haven’t bathed in a week”.
Cezanne was “local” before the term was even a term. He loved where he came from To this point I knew about him but I didn’t know how influential he really was. He knew everyone, or rather they all respected him greatly and considered his opinions. In connecting to those old world artists, the ones on the turn of modernity, the troubadours of modern thought; they were doing more than painting though I don’t think they were thinking beyond it. They were, in their letters, in their life styles, in their commitment to their home and place; changing the world. There is something to their fresh originality that has set deep in my bones. This is part of the “why” that makes me paint the way I do.
All of this is to understand a connection to a place, a connection to people and a connection to history. As Rothko said, “If you are only moved by color relationships then you miss the point” As Michelangelo said, “A man paints with his brains, not with his hands”.
Memory Fragment IX:
On the Duomo, the central theme of the work: Cezanne had his mountain, Hokusai his wave, Van Gogh his letters to his brother, Theo his paints, Daniel Buren his stripes and his conversations, Pierre Bonnard COLOR, Picasso his line drawings, Matisse his dancers and Klein his blue. I have my Duomo. The Duomooriginated from a personal memory in 2005 when my brother and I spent a summer in Italy and I studied painting in Florence. My brother stayed at Castiglion Fiorentino where a man named Paulo was the head master – and he was a painter! That summer when I passed Michelangelo’s statue at the Uffizi so many times with his portrait carved in stone I said “If you can do it, so can I”. I recalled something my mother had said when I first set out on the artist’s journey 16 years ago, “If anyone can do this, you can!” Every time I need to find my compass and bearing in life, I go back to the Duomo and to structure and to color. You never see every side of the Duomo as you walk around it. Every time you pass something new develops. You pass the niche on the left, you see Giotto’s bell tower on the right, Ghiberti’s gates shine all the while viewing Brunilleschi’s magnificent dome, (the same dome that DaVinci studied as a child with its cranes and revolutionary engineering.) By the time you pass the same niche again you are a changed person. Sometimes it takes years to pass the same niche. To circle the Duomo takes time, lines change, sunrises happen…sunsets too. The plants grow only to go dormant and shine again, stronger the next year, learning more each season. That’s the Duomo to me; a fixed point in time but somehow representing significant fragments of my life woven together through paint, color and line.