A moment of reflection maybe in order and review of Mary Heilmann exhibition

©Stuart Bush A moment of refection maybe in order, oil on canvas, 150 x 85cm
©Stuart Bush A moment of reflection maybe in order, oil on canvas, 150 x 85cm – £1500 + shipping enquiry

The intention of my painting, ‘A moment of reflection maybe in order’ was partly to dissect appearance and to attempt to penetrate life’s underlying structure.  It was painted following my research into existentialism, the philosophy that sought to identify man’s significance in a meaningless universe.

A review of Mary Heilmann exhibition, ‘Looking at pictures’ at the Whitechapel Gallery in London

Exhibition continues until 21 August 2016.

I received an email from the Whitechapel Gallery inviting me to visit an exhibition of Mary Heilman’s work.  I immediately wanted to visit the show after seeing an image of the painting ‘Crashing Waves’ in the email.  I was intrigued by the dynamic and simple composition in the painting and wanted to see the original, so I made my way to the show as soon as I could.

©Mary Heilmann, Crashing Wave 2011 oil on canvas
©Mary Heilmann, Crashing Wave 2011 oil on canvas

Mary Heilmann was born in 1940 in California.  Much of her work is inspired by time on the west coast of America.  She had her first solo show in New York in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art and is still working today in her seventies, living and working in New York.

The show at the Whitechapel Gallery was quiet when I visited allowing me plenty of space to look and enjoy the high-quality, beautiful works of art. The theme of the show, ‘Looking at Pictures’ embodies the scope and strength of work that is inspired by pop culture and minimalism.  

While viewing ‘Crashing Waves, ‘ I realised Mary Heilmann’s work was astonishingly beautiful.  I was interested in how Mary had let things almost fall out of control in her paintings.  I noticed the painterly marks with their different techniques from runny and washy paint to bold gestural marks were playing off against each other.  Working in this free, spontaneous way must have been very exciting, challenging and a way of learning something new with each painting.  

©Mary Heilmann, Carmelita (2004) oil on canvas
©Mary Heilmann, Carmelita (2004) oil on canvas

In the paintings, ‘Carmilita’ (2004) & ‘Franz West’ (1995), I liked their freeness. They felt unconstrained and spontaneous even though I suspect they were carefully contemplated and planned.  There are physical traces of thought and play as if Mary Heilmann was attempting to control and balance the accidents. I’m sure she made other versions of these paintings as it was difficult to control the failures that naturally occur when working this way.  Pulling pictures back from the brink of collapse would have potentially spoiled this free way of working.  I’m sure repetition would have been the solution to keep the paintings lose.  

©Mary Heilmann, Franz West (1995) oil on canvas
©Mary Heilmann, Franz West (1995) oil on canvas

There is bristling energy in Mary Heilmann’s work as she harnesses nature.  She clearly shows she cares passionately about non-representational visual language and the joy of life. Mary’s choice of colours, light and volume are a treat and fill you with warmth from the California sun.  I really enjoyed the exhibition and would recommend checking out it out.  I’m sure it will inspire some vibrant new work in my studio.

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