John Lurie Doesn’t Paint Happy Trees

So, when will we learn to paint?

Within the HBO sequence “Portray With John,” the actor, musician and artist John Lurie talks about that point he did cocaine for 3 hours in a brush closet with Rick James and Steve Rubell, and that different time when he set himself on fireplace and wound up charred and bare with a machete in his hand.

He recounts the day he choked an eel (the identical eel that seems on the duvet of Lurie’s 1988 Lounge Lizards album “Voice of Chunk”). He describes contracting Lyme illness about 20 years in the past, which he says led him to surrender music and was among the many causes he started to pursue portray in earnest.

As charming as these tales are, nevertheless, many appear to have little to do with the method of portray.

“They’ve nothing to do with portray,” Lurie conceded in a video name final week.

“Portray With John” premieres on Friday, three a long time after the debut of his cult traditional 1991 sequence “Fishing With John.” Like that sequence, which options scenes of Tom Waits stuffing a freshly caught pink snapper down his pants and Willem Dafoe affected by starvation and chilly whereas ice fishing, “Portray” shouldn’t be a how-to present.

“Bob Ross was incorrect,” Lurie says within the first episode. “Everyone can’t paint.” (Additionally: His bushes usually are not completely satisfied.)

And anyway, he stated, it wasn’t even presupposed to be a present in any respect.

“I believed, persons are so depressed, let’s make a bunch of those one-minute-long issues and put them on Instagram, simply to cheer folks up,” he stated.

Lurie’s paintings have drawn spectacular critiques from critics; Guernica journal praised the artist’s “corrosive wit” and command of colours. Writing in The Instances, Roberta Smith said his small ink drawings and gouaches “function someplace within the hole between William Wegman’s drolly captioned early drawings and Jean Michel-Basquiat’s acerbic diagrammatic photos.”

For a few years, starting within the late ’70s, Lurie, 68, was a fixture of New York’s movie, music and artwork scenes. He was a founding father of the jazz group the Lounge Lizards, a prolific TV and movie composer and an actor in landmark indie movies like Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise” and “Down by Legislation.” In “Portray,” which is ready at Lurie’s residence within the Caribbean (he received’t say which island), he pulls from his assorted previous lives, layering sensual close-ups of paint and canvas atop mesmerizing tunes from his musician days and tales culled from his life.

For followers of “Fishing,” which is accessible to stream on the Criterion Channel, this new sequence gives a distinct expertise: no friends, a single location, simply Lurie speaking right into a digicam from a picturesque island. The present additionally explains a bit about what Lurie has been as much as since he left the music and movie scene practically twenty years in the past: painting and more painting.

His work has appeared in galleries and solo exhibits all over the world, and is within the everlasting assortment of the Museum of Trendy Artwork. However that’s not, he stated, why he makes work.

“I’m making them for me,” he stated. “I’d be doing this even when all of them simply ended up beneath my sofa on the finish of the yr.”

From his second residence in New York, Lurie spoke about how the sequence got here to be, starting with the origin story of his first “With John” sequence. These are edited excerpts from that dialog.

You’ve been portray for years. What made you resolve to do a portray present?

Everyone was saying, Oh, it’s best to do “Portray With John.” “Fishing With John,” “Portray With John” — yeah, nice. However I didn’t suppose I’d be comfy portray on digicam. After which I believed, “Oh, I may inform these tales and paint for some time.” However I by no means anticipated it could go to HBO. Like, that first shot on the porch the place I crash the drone? There’s all this hair popping out of my ears. If I knew it was going be on HBO, I might have lower the hair in my ears.

Can you actually train somebody to color on a TV present?

Um, possibly just a little bit. However I’m not your man, what I imply? I’ve been doing this full time for 20 years since I acquired the Lyme illness, and I’m nonetheless determining stuff which might be in Lesson 3 in the event you took a category.

What do you get out of portray?

Oh, my God, I’m so fortunate to have it. I used to hang around at [the director and artist] Jack Smith’s home, and he would all day lengthy be placing just a little piece of plaster within the portray on the finish. And I’d say, “Why do you try this?” And he stated, “Nicely, once I don’t, I don’t really feel clear.” For me, I’ve to work. It’s loads like meditation, however I’m additionally simply compelled to do it. After I don’t, I don’t really feel good.

Is it like what taking part in music used to do for you?

It’s loads like writing music, and just a little bit like taking part in reside. You’re making a world, ? And in a method you’re following the world that you just’re creating as you’re making it. It’s not all you. At the very least the way in which I paint, it’s like, “Oh, that’s what I’ve — effectively, then, I’ll go right here.” You do the identical factor once you’re soloing with a band. It’s like, “Oh, that’s the place I’m, OK, now I’ll go there.” Nevertheless it’s not like your aware mind goes, “OK, do that, this and this.” At the very least not the way in which I work.

I at all times discover it attention-grabbing that there are some people who find themselves actually proficient in a number of inventive fields, whereas most individuals on Earth don’t have a lick of inventive expertise.

A lot of the great things I did had been presents. It wasn’t me. They move by me. So in case your soul is open to it, and also you’re prepared, then it’ll come by. Even when your method sucks, one thing will come by. For those who see some nice musicians’ work, although, they usually suck, I by no means perceive how that occurs. I used to be in a present of musicians who paint, and it was like Ron Wooden, Miles Davis, John Lennon. And these had been the worst work I ever noticed. I couldn’t perceive how they could possibly be so dangerous. I’ve seen some respectable Miles Davis work, however the one which was on this present was like, rattling, Miles. What occurred to you?

You discuss TV within the sequence, and never in a flattering method. However right here you’re, on TV.

At first, it was simply going to be on my web site or on Instagram in little tiny bits. I believed I might do it myself, and you’d pay a nickel to observe it. I don’t know what I believed. However then we labored more durable and more durable on it, as a result of we had been having fun with it. Erik [Mockus, the show’s 34-year-old cinematographer and editor] and me, we loved working collectively, and we simply stored going. Though it’s type of a shocker, it’s going to be on TV.

Within the early ’80s, I employed this bass participant, and he stored [expletive] up. After the present, I’d go, “Look, that’s a B flat there, you’ve acquired to return in earlier on that part.” After which he turned to me and stated: “Nicely, it’s your fault. You employed me.” So if folks hate the present and go, that is boring, blame HBO! I didn’t inform them to play it.

Individuals who know your work is likely to be anticipating one thing extra like “Fishing With John.” However that sequence was very totally different. How did it come about?

I’d gone out to L.A. to play with Tom Waits on New Yr’s Eve, and the following day we went fishing, and a good friend videotaped us. And I had been fishing with Willem [Dafoe] a number of occasions, and we videotaped that. And any individual noticed the tapes and introduced them to this Japanese firm, they usually stated, “Sure, we wish to make this.” And I used to be like, “Actually?”

Not like conventional fishing exhibits, “Fishing With John” captures what fishing is all about for many individuals, which is sitting round ready for bites that infrequently come. Do you even prefer to fish?

I fished with my dad, which was a giant deal. After which I fished with Willem Dafoe, and went fishing with Flea from the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers a number of occasions. However as I did the present, I grew to not wish to do it anymore. I used to be in Thailand sitting in a ship with Dennis Hopper, after which this factor came visiting me, and I used to be like: “I hate fishing. I don’t wish to be out right here anymore.”

On this new present, it’s largely footage of you speaking and portray. Do you miss performing?

When performing is basically good, and also you’re engaged on one thing good, that may be actually one thing. However all the things that goes round it’s so disagreeable: the auditioning, the hierarchy of who’s the star. I believe that’s why this present could possibly be cool for folks. It exhibits that if you wish to write and direct a film, you may simply do it as a substitute of going to the creepiest folks on the planet together with your script, after which being informed some horrible factor like, “Look, in the event you make it loads worse, then we will make it.”

And I believe that’s what’s actually optimistic a couple of present like this. That this child and this outdated man pulled this factor off for zero {dollars}.

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