California's Turkish-born Jean Varda, 49, is a roaring abstractionist. "I can produce at terrific speed," he announces. "I am at the height of my vision. I produce like a queen bee, like a queen ant, like a sow."
Wondering San Franciscans, who visited their Museum of Art last week to see what Painter Varda had furiously farrowed, saw 20 Varda collages (pictures put together with the help of colored papers, scissors, and a pastepot as well as paintpots). What they were pictures of, very few knew or cared; they were enjoyable. Most of the collages contained figures that were something like clothespins, something like praying mantises, something like attenuated, faceless women in a contrived geometric chaos.
Critics agreed that the collages were gay and witty. Nearly everybody agreed that they were decorative and colorful. Many of them are done in Varda's favorite shade of violent pink. Varda charges a flat rate of $75 a collage. "Soixante-quinze ," he says, "just like the French guns in the World War." So far he has sold eight pictures.
Varda used to work on gesso (a smooth-surfaced, white mixture of rabbit glue and whiting solution) and with mosaics. He turned to collage because gesso and mosaics are too bulky, too expensive to transport, the ingredients are too dearand Varda can snip out a collage in less time than it takes him to dream up a mosaic. "While the vision is full upon me," he says, "I can finish a whole painting [collage] in one day."
This production capacity and Varda's color theory (each picture should be remembered for one color) interlace. "I can work fast in collage," he says, "because I know that I am going to do a yellow painting. I work knee-deep in papers. When I find the right yellow, I can go to work like a puma."
Painter Varda also includes just enough of some subsidiary color in each collage to "perfume or accent" the dominant color. "This perfume," says Varda, "makes the painting sing." Sometimes he gets effects of transparency by dabbing nuances of background color on foreground subjects. As long as the effect is stimulating and gay, Varda says: Damn the blotches.
"I hate perfection," he roars. "I hate the bloody masters and their masterpieces. They are dead and the galleries and museums that keep them should properly be called necropolises. . . . Only the blind or the idiots, the children and the insane can paint today."