a blog of painting, abstraction, and contemporary art
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Monday night

I’ve been playing around a bit just drawing and painting on news paper. Mostly just making a mess, having fin and not taking myself or the work too seriously.

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May 11, 2011   No Comments

Abstraction is a language rooted in the practice of assembling and composing fragments -Arturo Herrara

Abstract artist Arturo Herrara discusses work and process in this great video posted over on Art:21

Arturo Herrera / Come / 2008 / Collage, mixed media, graphite on paper / Triptych, each part 79.72 x 57.09 inches (202.5 x 145 cm) / sikkemajenkinsco.com

Arturo Herrera / Come / 2008 / Collage, mixed media, graphite on paper / Triptych, each part 79.72 x 57.09 inches (202.5 x 145 cm) / sikkemajenkinsco.com

http://sikkemajenkinsco.com

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May 8, 2009   No Comments

Intimate Gestures

Last week, I dropped by Sundaram Tagore Gallery to see the Ho Sook Kang exhibition. Her paintings are built up with teeny tiny gestures, marks or dabs of colour really, that when viewed as a whole capture and communicate a sense of movement and elemental power.

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundharam Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundharam Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

Ho Sook Kang @ Sundaram Tagore

I wasn’t familiar with the artist before seeing the show, so when I got back to the computer I check out what the gallery had to say. Here’s an excerpt,

If abstract art is the consummate means of communicating what Kandinsky famously called “internal necessity,” then it is a matter of the quality of inward depth in abstraction. In American action painting it means enacting raw feeling, implying that the instincts in which it originates are uncontrollable, while in Kang’s Orientalist action painting it means refining feeling, so that it is brought under ego control and stabilized, and can be aesthetically contemplated, that is, incorporated into the conscious self and used to fertilize its growth and understanding. The goal of Kang’s Orientalist action painting is self-consciousness not self-expression–more particularly, the transformation of self-expression into self-consciousness. If American action painting is informed by avant-garde primitivism–the climactic statement of the “noble savagery” that Gauguin pursued–then Kang’s action painting is informed by the Oriental ideal of meditative calm, holding its own whatever emotional and social storms threaten it. {Read more…}

While the academic in me would argue with certain turns of phrase in this piece and the implications/assumptions of both action painting and the “Oriental ideal of meditative calm,” it did get me thinking about a couple of points of comparison. First, in American gestural painting we often find that the expressive gesture functions as metaphor for an individualistic or atomistic conception of the self. Kang’s paintings seem to point to a different conception of the self, one that is more holistic. In her work, the individual gestures function together as a whole to create a unified abstract image. Second, it got me thinking about the Confucian/Classical Chinese idea of the “Doctrine of the Mean” (chung-yung) and so I pulled out one of my books and Wing-Tsit Chang had this to say which I found interesting.

In the Analects chung-yung, often translated the “Mean,” den;otes moderation but here chung means what is central and yung means what is universal and harmonious. The former refers to human nature, the latter to its relation with the universe. Taken together, it means that there is harmony in human nature and that this harmony underlies our moral being and prevails throughout the univers. In short, man and Nature form a unity. {Read more…}

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February 11, 2009   2 Comments

nothing special. ordinariness.

I went to the New Museum on Saturday to see the Mary Heilmann, To be Someone and Elizabeth Peyton,  Live Forever shows, which I hadn’t had a chance to get to before. I started up on the 4th floor in the Peyton exhibit and walked my way down.  I’ve always been attracted to the colours and sensitivity of Elizabeth Peyton’s work, especially the drawings. However, probably because I don’t really care about Kurt Cobain or Jarvis, I found myself on Saturday really looking at the grounds of her paintings and how she prepares the surface. In fact, I found the thick, sometimes smooth sometimes uneven white grounds with rough edges to be the most interesting aspect of the paintings. They provided both an interesting textural contrast to the really loose and thin paint that she uses and added a brightness/luminosity to her colours. My wife, Sauman, who’s not a huge fan or Peyton’s work, pointed out to me that none of her subjects smile, ever, which gave a strong sense of sadness or loneliness or isolation, despite the seeming intimacy of the people and everyday scenes depicted in her work.

It was such a contrast then to walk into the galleries of the Mary Heilmann exhibition which struck me as fun, playful, light and airy. I had never heard of Mary Heilmann before this exhibition and I am not familiar  at all with her work beyond the little bit that I read, but it really struck me as lacking any of the pretension of a lot of contemporary abstraction of the last 30 years. The zen phrase “nothing special,” that is used to refer to the ordinariness or everyday mind, kept popping into my head as I walked through the exhibition. I don’t know why that kept coming up, maybe because I could just relax and really enjoy the paintings visually rather than having to think about them too hard, or that they had a playful everday presence about them. Sauman, on the other hand, wanted to know what was special about her paintings because it reminded her a lot of the work of some of our peers at the ASL or other work she has seen in Chelsea, whereas the ceramic work she found exciting.

There is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Richard Flood on the New Museum website that I found intersting:

RF: I’m sitting here looking at these amazing glazes on your ceramics. Do they have great importance to your use of paint?

MH: Right. In fact, when I went into painting, I really came in with a sculptor’s attitude and used the paint in a way that you use the clay. I thought of it as a physical thing. And so I really didn’t think of doing painting the way you think of drawing and painting, but more like the way you do sculpture. Pouring, casting, pressing, moulding. And then a color, red or orange or black, would be a physical material rather than a color you paint on. It’s a different way of configuring it.

The Elizabeth Peyton show closed yesterday, but the Mary Heilmann is up of another couple of weeks and is a fun treat.

Mary Heilmann, To Be Someone @ New Museum, 235 Bowery, thru 1/28

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January 12, 2009   No Comments

tied up in knots

 Terry Winters / In Blue / 2008 / Oil on linen / 88 × 112 inches / Matthew Marks Gallery

Terry Winters / In Blue / 2008 / Oil on linen / 88 × 112 inches / Matthew Marks Gallery

Terry Winters has a bunch of interesting gems in the Brooklyn Rail interview with Phong Bui, David Levi Strauss and Peter Lamborn Wilson here are a couple

Bui: Are you saying that time can be condensed in the physical act of painting could have a pictorial equivalence of objects being eroded by real time?

Winters: Yes, in that every construction is a destruction. The paintings are a consequence of both of those activities and it’s through the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of that activity that the pictures emerge. In a way, I’m trying to move forward and to work quickly and proactively. And the destruction that happens in the course of that is what allows the images to develop.

Levi Strauss: Looking at these paintings, one sees into a very complicated space, initially created by the transparency of the paint against the urgency of the grid. You have the knots, that are made from squares and rectangles painted so as to evoke spheres that are then set in motion, and these knots are suspended in a grid, with another grid behind, which is also in motion and bent or warped by radiating lines. Out of all this movement, the eye and mind create what can be a quite vertiginous space. I’m curious about how that space operates when you’re making the painting. Are you painting inside that space, or do you only go into it afterward, in viewing it?

Winters: No, I’m in the space. I mean, I’m not trying to manipulate it in a conscious way. I’m trying to feel my way through the process. It’s haptic. I’m building it right on the surface and the optical consequences are somehow woven into the surprise of the image itself. In some way, all the meaning is tied up in that space. It’s that Joycean condition about the organized chaos, the “chaosmos”. The painting is a product of all the conscious decisions that I have made but the result is something unforeseeable. It’s a paradoxical object.

{Read the full interview}

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December 17, 2008   No Comments

colour as light

Frank O’Cain who I studied with at the Art Students League talks about this idea of colour as light. As he likes to say,

The palette is chosen to create an effect of light, to be able to develop a spatial reality, and also to penetrate through the surface a painter’s needs and rejections. Some colors will be likeable, and others distasteful. Through this preparation, a painter has chosen to have color reflect light, light to relate to color, and energy to take form in shape. Wat it comes down to is this: every color you choose responds to another color so that it creates light for the eye. We react to both the responses of the colors to each other as well as to the surface, to light as it bounces off color. {Read More…}

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about colour lately and expecially this idea of colour as light. I don’t have any profound insights or revelations to share, but I have been thinking about how we develop our colour sense and how our experiences shapes our responses and uses of colour. In my own case I began to think about the effect of staring at boxes of light (computers and teevee screens) for hours everyday for 3 decades has had an effect on my colour sense. In particular, I have been thinking about the Chuck Jones animations I used to watch as a kid and how flat transparent colour on celluloid illuminated, filmed, projected and then transmitted and projected again through the pixels of a teevee influences my  choices of colour as a painter. I don’t have any conclusions, but it is interesting to think about. Anyway, a quick google search revealed all these great Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny stills, which among other things (content & composition), are full of rich colours.

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December 17, 2008   No Comments

La Linea – “The Line”

For those of us that grew up with the Great Space Coaster!

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December 9, 2008   No Comments

the intersection

Zhao Chunxiang (Chao Chung Hsiang; 1910-1991) / Calling You / diptych, ink and acrylic on paper / 183 x 177 cm / Private collection

Zhao Chunxiang (Chao Chung Hsiang; 1910-1991) / Calling You / diptych, ink and acrylic on paper / 183 x 177 cm / Private collection

Chao Chung Hsiang, as he is usually known, graduated from the Hangzhou National Academy of Art in 1939, and the following year was appointed by the Ministry of Education to work in the Northwest Artifacts Survey Group. He moved to Taiwan in 1948 and then traveled in Europe before settling in the United States in 1958. This abstract expressionist painting, which combines Chinese ink and acrylic color, is typical of his work of the period. He returned from New York to Sichuan in 1990, and died in Taiwan the following year. This work exemplifies a recurring trend among Chinese painters who were familiar with Western modernism to find points of intersection between ink painting and Abstract Expressionism.{Read More…}

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December 1, 2008   No Comments

An Other Space

Annabel Emson / After Dark / oil on canvas / 2008 / 214 x 244 cm / Wyer Gallery

 Annabel Emson / After Dark / oil on canvas / 2008 / 214 x 244 cm / Wyer Gallery

 Teetering on the edge of abstraction and representation, Emson’s paintings reflect the patterns that arise naturally in the structure of the world around us. However, despite drawing inspiration from both the natural and manmade environment, she does not depict recognizable landscapes in existence somewhere but, working intuitively and spontaneously from memory, alludes to some less tangible or fleeting place or space, rooted in memory perhaps but which has become something other, independent, self-determining and lawless.

Her paintings seem to reflect a joy taken in the physicality of painting as well as paint’s material possibilities. She plays with juxtaposition of colour, its temperature, intensity and emotional pitch; the manner and form of the application of paint and the part played by rhythm and sound, both in the process of painting itself and the form and structure of visual composition. This experimentation with the language and application of paint has lead to an ostensibly disparate note in a collection of canvases that differ in scale and style and where abstract works containing broad, energetic or gestural brushwork sit alongside others in which more considered figurative ideas have worked their way in alongside layers of abstraction to suggest a narrative or something more descriptive.

However diverse at times, the works are linked to each other by an index of recurring motifs and images, referencing and building upon each other as part of an extended conversation. Reduced to their core, these are paintings about their process and each work a consequence of a new question that is understood most fully in its relation to its counterparts.{Read More…}

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November 19, 2008   No Comments

relationships of non-relationship

Jeremy Gilbert Rolfe chats with David Shapiro in a 1987 Bomb Magazine interview

DS I guess the usual question asked of you, and we should hear your answer again, is why you intransigently keep to the idea of “good painting,” in an era of bad manners, Warholism, and absurdism. Since you have praised Smithson and Joel Shapiro, you are not dogmatically “about” abstract painting, but your response to abstraction is perhaps the C major of your work, or how would you deal with this topic?

JG-R I am of course pleased that you should ask me this question although at the same time I must say you’ve put it in a form which seems to me to be a little odd. I mean I make abstract paintings so my work is at that level not “about” abstract painting at all, it is abstract painting. As to my critical work, I hope I have by now made it reasonably clear that I don’t write about things from a point of view which, intentionally at least, seeks to valorize or privilege other things. I think I am mostly interested in thought, and seek to treat it properly with regards to its context and address wherever I might encounter it in an interesting form. As to abstraction, the questions which interest me are those having to do with the space of painting. Space as an invisibility made visible. That seems to me to be the province of abstract painting and, in my case, for the possibility of articulating relationships of non-relationship. I am interested in complexity, and it seems to me that abstract painting is an art in which one can have complexity as opposed to invoking it. {Read More…}

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November 14, 2008   No Comments