April 15, 2016

Faiers's Music

        Ted Faiers (1908-1985) was born in England, grew up in Canada, and spent his adult life in the United States.  His work was heavily influenced by the prevailing artistic styles of the day: regionalist landscapes in the forties, modernism in the fifties, pop art/cartoon style in the sixties…  He did lots of paintings, but also lots of woodcuts, and a theme that seems to have spanned his various styles is music.  Today I’ve gathered a few of his black and white woodcuts depicting musicians.
        Faiers did a lot of work that I find quite ugly, and then a handful of other pieces that I like very much but which aren’t included here because they aren’t music-themed.  The selection of work I wanted to share was already getting to be more than enough.  So, here we have a variety of musicians, all from just two years, but almost 15 years apart.  Up first is a clarinetist with a lot of interesting geometric pattern going on.  The grid of dots on his trousers is so regular it looks like the shape was cut out of patterned paper rather than trying to reproduce the contours of three-dimensional fabric.  The stripes on the floor could be considered representational, and even the designs on the walls could be some sort of acoustic tiles or something, but the overall effect is of a semi-abstract backdrop for the musician.  I like his eyes and nose and hands particularly.
        Next are some classical musicians, all in their tuxedos.  It looks like a portrait of the same baritone with the conductor and by himself, with his full, wavy hair.  Like the clarinetist, he has some very stylized patterns and shapes behind him, whereas the violinist has no background except a
sort of horizon line, and no patterns at all, except the pages of music.  For him everything is solid black and white.  I like his violin very much, and his hands are surprisingly delicate and expressive when compared with the roughness of his face.
        These two more abstract pieces are from an earlier phase of Faiers’s career.  The simplified, flattened shapes of the instruments are perfectly recognizable, but I can’t help thinking that the pianist on the right is actually a dog!  The backgrounds are blocks of flat, solid black or white, except for the marks of carving.  I like how the carving marks on the cello are distinctly different from the carving marks on the violinist.
        And finally my favorite: this quirky man playing a single string to an inexplicable but charming squirrel.  He’s got all sorts of detail in his setting, from the curtains at the window, to the pattern on the rug, and the claw feet of his chair.  The man and the squirrel are both utterly engrossed in the effort of playing the music.  The shape of the man’s mouth almost suggests to me the tip of the tongue caught between the teeth in concentration.  I’d be very curious to hear what the music actually sounds like.

[Pictures: Jazz Man, woodcut by Ted Faiers, 1976;
First Violin, woodcut by Faiers, 1976;
Pianissimo, woodcut by Faiers, 1976;
Baritone, woodcut by Faiers, 1976;
Two Musicians, woodcut by Faiers, 1952;
Piano Duet, woodcut by Faiers, 1952;
Doing His Thing on a Single String, woodcut by Faiers, 1976
(Images from Ted Faiers.com).]

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