It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Painting) - Spear's Magazine

It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Painting)

When he puts down the plectrum, he picks up the paintbrush. Bob Dylan, not known as a visual artist for the greater part of his five-decade-long career, has in the past couple of years revealed his skills as a draughtsman and a painter.

When he puts down the plectrum, he picks up the paintbrush. Bob Dylan, not known as a visual artist for the greater part of his five-decade-long career, has in the past couple of years revealed his skills as a draughtsman and a painter. Whereas before 'collecting Dylan' meant ticket stubs from Newport to New York, now he is owned all over the world by private individuals.

These paintings are not the residue of a life lived hard, nor are they as full of the – let’s call it – beau monde as Ronnie Wood’s, also a rocker by day, painter by night. Instead, they are in the bright, swift, colourful tradition of Matisse and Gauguin, yet draw on lonely scenes and childhood memories. Train Tracks I recedes into purple hills under a broad-brushed blue-grey sky, some wind-ruffled foliage off to the side and no evidence of life.

There are plenty of references – conscious or not – to the masters of art history, with recumbent women and sunflowers in several scenes, but equally Dylan tackles the eternal American rural scene (Dad’s Restaurant, with a pick-up truck in front of a diner, for example).


 
The home of Dylan's drawings and now his paintings (the show runs to 10 April) is the Halcyon Gallery on Bruton St, a Georgian building opened up to the bright February light. Paul Green, president of the gallery, says Dylan the painter was a pleasant discovery: “I’m used to artists being multi-faceted and multi-talented, but I was surprised just how good Dylan is.” The popularity of the Drawn Blank show of his drawings Halcyon hosted in 2008 can only have bolstered this view.

“When reading his biography,” says Green, “his recollection of individual places and objects is so astonishing, and the way he puts it is so poetic, that when you look at the paintings of train tracks, you can hear where he was brought up.” The paintings at Halcyon are certainly evocative of exactly that and make you realise that while Dylan may bare his soul on vinyl, he has a lot to say on canvas too.

Picture: Motel Pool by Bob Dylan



 

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