Bob Dylan reflected on the inspiration of his visual art in a Vanity Fair piece promoting “The Beaten Path,” an exhibition of the singer-songwriter’s acrylic paintings, sketches and watercolors of American landscapes. “For this series of paintings, the idea was to create pictures that would not be misinterpreted or misunderstood by me or anybody else,” he said of the exhibition, which opens Saturday, November 5th at London’s Halcyon Gallery.
In the lengthy feature – his most in-depth writing since his 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One – Dylan wrote that the unifying theme of these works is interpreting the American landscape: “How you see it while crisscrossing the land and seeing it for what it’s worth,” he wrote. “Staying out of the mainstream and traveling the back roads, free-born style. I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past.”
“These paintings are up to the moment realism – archaic, most static, but quivering in appearance,” he continued. “They contradict the modern world. However, that’s my doing. The San Francisco Chinatown street stands merely two blocks away from corporate, windowless buildings. But these cold giant structures have no meaning for me in the world that I see or choose to see or be a part of or gain entrance to. If you look half a block away from the Coney Island hot-dog stand, the sky is littered with high rises. I choose not to see them either. Down the road, across the highway from the Cabin in the Woods is a manicured golf course. But it has little meaning compared to the seemingly worthless shack which speaks to me.”
Dylan also wrote that his watercolors and acrylics were created to purposely “show little or not emotion,” though not intended to be “emotionally stringent.”
“The attempt was made to represent reality and images as they are without idealizing them,” he said. “My idea is to compose works that create stability, working with generalized, universal, and easily identifiable objects. Throughout, there is the attempt to depict scenes of life and inanimate life for their own sake (Ice Cream Shack, Arcade, Threatening Skies). Da Vinci paints a blurred picture – you see no lines but clouds that fade into one another with different color schemes. An opposing view would be Mondrian and Van Gogh with strict lines that define the volumes of space. In the middle somewhere would be Kandinsky and Rouault. And these paintings would probably fall into that category.”
Last month, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, though he sparked controversy by declining to respond for weeks. Last week, the songwriter finally acknowledged the win in an interview with The Telegraph, calling the honor “Amazing, incredible” and adding, “Whoever dreams about something like that?”
Dylan also noted the “absolutely” plans to attend the December 10th Nobel gala in Stockholm “if it’s at all possible.”