The first time I saw the inspirational work of Franz Kline was at the Abstract Expressionist exhibition in 2017 at the Royal Academy in London. Prior to that, I had only seen Kline’s work in reproductions in books. I had always been intrigued and impressed by his paintings and when I saw his original work for the first time l was not disappointed. Kline’s work had a strong impact on me. It evoked the feeling and emotions that l have about the city. It reminded me of the grandeur and the scale of the New York skyline. Using line and form, his mainly black and white paintings, ask ‘Is this really what reality is about?’
Early in Kline’s career, he visited Willem de Kooning’s studio. At that time Kline was drawing and painting representational images. De Kooning introduced Kline to a Bell-Opticon enlarger. When Kline’s representational drawings were projected onto a canvas Kline saw a new way forward. The images inspired Kline to make an experimental leap into abstraction.
Throughout his career Kline was reluctant to talk about his art. Unfortunately, the lack of dialogue had an impact on his career. With little confabulation about what he was working towards, collectors since his death, have focused on other Abstract Expressionist like, De Kooning, Pollock and Rothko.
Related post; The inspirational work of Franz Kline
His painting process of white over black, over white in repetition using household paint is a sign that Kline saw his painting practice as different. Household paints are clearly less expensive and less refined. But they enabled him to paint in his own, unique style using a mixture of high gloss and matt. However, at times it seemed like he was not striving for fine art, and not striving for durability of his legacy.
In fact, Kline’s art showed other priorities. It contained is a lot of intangible realness, which examined the grittiness and abrasiveness of the city. There is a sense of the physical danger in the New York streets as law and order was fraying.
Kline’s art was based on personal vision and inner thoughts, influenced by what he saw around him; the streets of New York and Jazz Music. Abstract painting and Jazz music without words suggests a profound correlation with the way people experience the city. Each painting had its own rhythm. Line, colour and form were influenced by melody, harmony and rhythm like in the free jazz compositions of Miles Davis. The paintings reflected the streets. When looking at a Kline painting you have a unique sense that they go deeper and beyond the surface.
Related post; The inspirational work of Franz Kline
Kline’s painting technique was able to capture a visual intelligence as his captured forms competed with each other. By the subtraction and the addition of new forms throughout his painting, he looks at the subtracted nature and essence in the city. He envokes the stillness and movement, the noise and silence, the negative and positive, and the absence and presence. The result is a personal account and a romancing of the poetic qualities of the city that challenges the notion of beauty. The limited palette hints that Kline may have a lack of knowledge about colour, but Kline’s seeks to evoke feelings by using the colours he sees when he looks up from street level.
Kline work evokes a tangible experience. There is a joy of geometry from the colossal departure from nature. The drawings that started as representational, distilled and reframed through a projector find a response to genuine psychological needs within the details. Through light and dark you are drawn to the shape of something impalpable. The resulting sculptural forms painted with abstract values, suggest a path to truth. Kline appears to ask what the significance of each experiences is? His work is certainly subjective.
Related post; The inspirational work of Franz Kline
Sarah Sze is well known for her sculptures of large-scale installations. When l walked into the exhibition I was immediately meet by the flood of ideas. Sarah stimulating installations take the detritus from the frame, and her work appears to explode as if trying to escape. She instinctively relies on her painter’s instincts, as ‘Afterimage’ takes a closer look at the artist’s working practices as she looks at the relationships between objects in space and the contradictions between them.
Sarah Sze international art career started in the 1990s. In 2003 she won the won the MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013 she represented the USA at the at the Venice Biennale. She has exhibitions in many countries and her work is in many museum collections around the world.
The exhibition starts with her two-dimension work. These images are laid out like a collage on the wall. Everyday items from roughly torn images, photographs, string, sketches and more overlap. They are taped and stuck together as they continue to generate new thoughts and ideas. They gradually accumulate to turn the collage into part of the canvas. The paintings start with no definite beginning or end. They form a vast assemblage of content allowing thoughts to take off in many different directions at the same time.
One of the most intriguing parts of the exhibition for me is the presence of time and space. I realised the artist must have added to her works while in the room. This is engaging and stimulating. I felt like I was able to explore Sarah’s train of thought before, during and after the work was created. Sarah is communicating and documenting how we live in the present moment, how we are meant to focus on the present, but our thoughts are often elsewhere.
I found the contradictions in Sarah’s work absorbing. Not only do they show how time continues forward and backwards with videos, plants growing and decaying but also the presence and absence of form in the construction. As I interrupted the video projectors on the walls, I saw myself in the mirror and my silhouette appeared on the wall. However, Sarah is not interested in the objects themselves; her interest lies in the relationship between elements and what they say about us. She is showing us evidence, evidence of humanity’s impact. Giving an overall feeling of a laboratory where you are the witness. It reminds me of what Picasso once said, “Art is the lie that reveals the truth.”
In Sarah’s artwork, the individual objects have no value. However, Sarah creates value in the way the collage, painting and sculpture come together and the way the items are treated and placed. The physical relationship to the objects is familiar but this intimate experience of development and demise, in time and space, is encouraging us to reconsider everything again.
I found the exhibition very revealing about Sarah’s working practices. The exhibition asks questions about what we experienced before we arrived, what have experienced during the show and how this will change what we will see after we leave. The show left me thinking about the human race as a species and what evidence we are really leaving behind. I thoroughly recommend a trip to Victoria Miro to take a look.
External links to the Sarah Sze ‘Afterimage’ exhibition;
I am enthusiastic to tell you about my new exhibition next month.
I want to connect with bigger things than my art or myself and I have decided I want to help in situations where there can be a difference between life and death. The local regional Air Ambulances mission is to provide a rapid response to trauma and medical emergencies and is vitally important. I want to do my bit by supporting the local Air Ambulance charity. To this end l have decided to give 50% of the sales from my next art exhibition in April to the charity.
The local regional air ambulance fly two helicopters across the counties of Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland covering 3850 square miles of the UK. They provide a vital part of the health service, with an average response time of 13 minutes, they attend on average 6 missions a day. The Air Ambulance Service is one of only two totally independent air rescue providers in the UK and they receive no government finding. They are entirely funded through the generosity of members of the public and corporate sponsors and I want to help too.
I hope that by raising funds for the charity through selling my paintings, I can bring even more meaning to life through my Art. Every £5 raised could pay for pressure dressings to control a patients bleeding. Every £10 raised could pay for enough fuel to fly 11 miles towards the nearest major trauma centre. Every £20 raised could pay for defibrillator pads to use when a patient suffers cardiac arrest, without which the defibrillator wouldn’t work. Every £36 could pay for Celox, a type of gauze that, in the case of major haemorrhages can help stop bleeding by helping blood clots to form. Every £60 raised could pay for straps to safely secure patients before and during their flight, allowing the crew to focus on treatment.
Please join me from 18th – 26th April 2018 at Floor 1 Gallery, Rugby Art Gallery & Museum, Little Elborow Street, Rugby, CV21 3BZ from 10am – 5pm, Monday to Saturday and Sunday from 10am til 4pm.
Thank you for your support, I look forward to seeing you there.
A fictional world of colourful hues surrounds me as I go from one work to another. I feel like I’m between cultures and countries at Peter Doig’s show at the Michael Werner Gallery, London. Peter Doig born in 1959 in Edinburgh, has lived in Trinidad since 2002. He studied at Wimbledon School of Art, Saint Martins School of Art and Chelsea School of Art. He is a professor at the Fine Arts Academy in Dusseldorf, Germany. In reviewing this exhibition, I’m interested in contemplating Peter Doig methods, techniques, and content in order to consider how an acclaimed artist approaches the process of painting in paradise.
Looking at Peter’s, Red Man (Sings Calypso) 2017, I was curious about the symbolism in this painting. The central figure in his swimming trucks is the film star Robert Mitchum when he visited Trinidad in 1957 and recorded an album of Calypso songs. The character in the background references a man who lives on the island of Trinidad and often walks around the beach with a snake wrapped around him impressing the tourists. The painting also references Laocoon’s struggle in Greek mythology when Laocoon and his two sons are killed by serpents sent by Apollo. My interpretation of the painting is that it suggests the inequality between the tourists and locals. Robert Mitchum’s film star sunburn, is in strong contrast to the naturally, dark, local man and his snake, as the two worlds collide.
Peter Doig has previously stated, “we don’t always have to know what our painting is about”. What I like and enjoy about Peter Doig’s paintings is that they give the viewer the impression that they are free to float around Peter’s imagination without look for meaning. The symbolism in the paintings however, is very striking and encourages the viewer to ask questions about the artist intentions, neverthelessless for me they are a distraction in seeking to understand what the painting is really about.
I believe the found photographs used by the artist are only a starting point. They add another layer to the painting, but the subject in the images only helps to get the piece started. Once the painting is underway the subject matter becomes irrelevant for the artist. Quite often the meaning in Peter Doig’s paintings is unavailable and unexplainable. The subject is like a desolate dream that is almost unfathomable for an outsider.
The paintings are more about the daily painting process. Peter has created a signature style on the canvas where he can play with open creativity within a broad set of rules. He loves keeping things interesting where no two painting are painted the same. In my view, he wants to communicate his distinct impression of what he sees in the unique colours from the tropic paradise of Trinidad but feels compelled to highlight the dark side of life too.
Peter paints openly and quickly when starting a painting in order to get some colour on the canvas. His signature figurative painting style comes from creating a richness of paint through layers. The cloth soaks up the washes, and the background colours come through the thin layers. Peter, at times, has been known to leave his paintings exposed to the weather at his studio to take advantage of the marbling effect from watermarks. When the paint dries, there are rich details from the runs, splatters and drying process, which partially look like stains. He also sometimes masks out areas before the layering process to leave silhouettes of figures coming through the washes.
The second stage of Peter’s painting process is working on top of the layers, adding figures and objects as the experimenting continues. He uses an impasto technique that carefully balances with the layers below, so they don’t dominate. It is common in smaller works of art for many artists to feel free to increase the risk-taking. It is the same for the smaller works in this show; the risk-taking is exciting with more vibrant kaleidoscopic tones. The mark making pushes the boundaries and adds even more mystery.
I find Peter’s painting technique profoundly absorbing and fascinating. There is no plan or an imagined endpoint; the open exploratory journey can go in any direction. It is clear that Peter enjoys the process of painting everyday in the studio.
The darkness in the Trinidad paradise that underlies the work adds an edginess to this dream world. Through the danger of risk-taking Peter offers the viewer a better appreciation of the world. The colours and the process have an impact on the human soul; each painting expresses its own spirit and soul.
In the Peter Doig show, he asks open questions about what a painting paradise could be. The symbolism helps add layers of meaning that may lead you down a rabbit hole. For me, the paintings are about the process of painting. Exploring different methods and techniques, and opening the doors to a fictional land where everyone’s soul is welcome.
I remember watching the film Pulp Fiction, in that movie, there was a great power in the mystery of what was in the suitcase. In the film, we never find out. The mystery of not knowing was more powerful than knowing. I see there is enormous potential for interpretation by the viewer. I want to add mystery to my artwork so the viewer can interpret the work the way they see it. The audience can bring their own intentions, baggage and ideas. I want the viewer to look at the artwork and let their mind wonder.
Representational art discusses drawing, handling of paint, skill, composition; it also can be used to communicate ideas and a subject. The intention behind representational work is often clear for the viewer, but I have found it limited for discussing deeper philosophical challenges and felt it was holding me back.
However, abstraction artwork is different in that is invites more commentary and mystery. The viewer coasts across the surface trying to understand it and often falling short. The viewer can often never be sure if they understand the artist’s intention. The intention is often not what the work is about. Instead while making the work the thinking and the doing are often inseparable where feeling and emotional responses are often significant in making the ‘art’ within work.
I want to create a space for instincts and accidents rather than the straightforward one-to-one representation. I want to feel and grab something real and put it in a painting. I am interested in the space in the viewer’s mind as much as the space in the composition and the space that inspired the work. Through an investigation of spatial structures in a pursuit of knowledge, I want to create a different way of looking and seeing the world. I find it profoundly gratifying focusing on the place in-between forms; perceiving the image and watching it disappear into shapes, forms and space.
The outcome is an artwork that is intended to work on many levels. The clarity of the composition is comparable with the mark making: realising positive and negative, absence and presence in equal measure. The colours and forms produce and transmit a poetic meaning, an emotional state that invites interpretation. By creating an interpretation of space that cannot be communicated by words the work it acts a metaphor about what it means to alive today.