Painting with John, the new John Lurie series

19/1 · Por HBO · Reading 3 min.

Explore Painting with John, the new series directed and written by the American painter, composer and director, in which he reflects on life.

Painting with John, the new series directed by and starring John Lurie

John lives on a small Caribbean island.

He lives a peaceful life filled with moments of pleasure and of creativity. With ideas. One of them: to make a television series.

For HBO, of course. Who else?

A series, yes, written by him, acted by him, directed by him. About art, about ideas, about painting. About painting with him, something along the lines of a meditative tutorial and a (seemingly) relaxed conversation around the fire.  

Something along those lines.

But don't think all this is merely a dream: the series exists, HBO is presenting it starting in January, and it’s called Painting with John. Six episodes in which the musician, actor and artist, seated at the table in his studio or moving around his tropical house, shares his painting techniques and his incredibly original view on life.

With the amusing and irreverent tone so characteristic of Lurie, the series is a fresh and sometimes biting reminder that life is something more than the weary everyday routine, and that it is always worth it to make space for creativity and leisure.

But who is John Lurie?

Lurie suffers from Lyme disease, transmitted by a tick, which causes strong headaches and fatigue, among other things. But beyond this more recent affliction, we're looking at a guy who has succeeded in making a good life for himself.

During the 1980s and 90s, he was the living image of the bohemian New York artist. He was a musician, a handsome, rude brawler, and he was everywhere. Not surprisingly, he had interesting and famous friends, and he worked with them on various artistic endeavors.

With his musical colleagues, he formed a jazz band that played experimental music, called The Lounge Lizards. With his fellow filmmakers—Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders and Martin Scorsese among them—he set about making movies.

He is also friends with Tom Waits and Flea, the peculiar bassist for Red Hot Chilli Peppers, to list just a couple of musicians. In addition, he was a buddy of Dennis Hopper, to name one actor.

But some say that he’s no longer close to Jarmusch and that Waits doesn't speak to him. Who knows? What is known is that around 2010, he was forced to do a disappearing act because someone else close to him, an artist named John Perry, went crazy and began pursuing and threatening him.

What is also known is that he is the creator and star of a previous television series, Fishing with John, in which, without knowing a thing about fishing, he went out fishing in different parts of the world with some of the friends named earlier. These included the incomparable Willem Dafoe, with whom he in fact appeared in Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988.

Our man has composed and performed music for some twenty film and television productions, including the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for the movie Get Shorty, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. He even invented a musician called Marvin Pontiac and put out an album. Here is a brief sketch of the imaginary musician: Pontiac was born in 1932 in Detroit, the son of a native of Mali and a New Yorker of Jewish origins. He lived in Bamako, where he was immersed in African music, and then moved to Chicago, where he became familiar with American music. He composed strange songs, went for naked bike rides through the streets of Detroit, said that he had been kidnapped by aliens, was in a mental hospital and died in 1977, run over by a bus. All of this, to be sure, according to Lurie, who in 1999 put out the album The Legendary Marvin Pontiac: Greatest Hits, on his New York label Strange & Beautiful Music. But, as we have said, Pontiac never existed: it was all part of the creative games of this multifaceted artist, who now devotes his time to painting on a remote Caribbean island.

So, John Lurie... is John Lurie, and this is but a little of what he has done, just an overview. With things as they are, who could deny themselves the chance to watch a show in which he paints and gives advice on leading a creative life?

Painting with John, a totally original series. Of this there is no doubt. Don't miss it, coming in January. On HBO and HBO GO.

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