A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

The EY Exhibition: Van Gogh and Britain Tate Britain, 27 March – 11 August 2019

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) L’Arlésienne, 1890, Oil paint on canvas
650 x 540 mm, Collection MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art) Photo credit: João Musa
Van Gogh arrived in London in 1873 at 20 years old and spent just under three years as an art dealer’s assistant. Although he didn’t start painting until four years after he left, this exhibition proposes that London had a significant impact on his art and influenced many of his works. I went along to take a closer look at Van Gogh’s paintings and to see what I thought of the exhibition claims.
London in the 1870s was an exciting place to obverse people and places. It was overtly brimming with life.  Van Gogh regularly made drawings of London on his way home from work from Covent Garden to Brixton.  Seeing the sooty scenes across the Thames, rowdy drunken men laughing in the pubs and women having bitter quarrels in the streets was a valuable experience. It created a stark contrast to the rich and opulence life he also saw.  Charles Dickens, who was one of Van Gogh’s favourite writers, wrote about London, “[the] streets and courts dart in all directions until they are lost in the wholesome vapour which hangs over the house-top and renders the dirty perspective uncertain and confined.”

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

Picasso paints what see rather than what he knows
When Van Gogh started painting, he knew what he wanted to portray; an equivalent of the way that Dickens wrote.   Along with building a personal collection of black and white prints that he also sold as an art dealers assistant, like Gustave Doré’s drawings, From London: A Pilgrimage, (1872).  Van Gogh knew he wanted to be a social documenter; a painter of working people’s lives.
It is interesting that Van Gogh’s earlier work shows the usual traditional approach to drawing and painting that I would expect from that period.  I wonder what his teacher from that time thought of his art when Van Gogh felt the need to move past the traditional habits that he had learnt.   I think it is highly likely that traditional tuition would have been suffocating for Van Gogh’s expressive style as there would have been an encouragement to stay within in the confines of established conventions, instead of exploring expressionism.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) Path in the Garden of the Asylum, 1889 Oil paint on canvas 614 x 504 mm Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

Isle D'Hollander review
This exhibition clearly shows he was a natural genius at by the end of the 1880s with many paintings dated 1888-9 like, ‘Path in the garden if the asylum Saint Remy,’ (1889) and ‘The Prison Courtyard Saint-Remy’ (1890) to his credit.
It is perhaps not surprising that Van Gogh is mainly a self-taught artist.  I’m sure he would have found it difficult to listen to advice that was stifling his approach. He even ignored his brother Theo’s advice.  After a short term of concise art training, nothing stopped him from painting in rippling flows of paint on a springy canvas. Van Gogh was able to be at one with what he felt was important. He moved artistically to where he was entirely at one with his inspirations and to be able to create a strong presence in his paintings.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

I cried becauase I love you - Tracey Emin review
As he broke new ground in his work Van Gogh must have realised he needed to be aware of how he stood and the way his arm was angled to give him the flexibility to create movement on the canvas.  He didn’t know what was right or wrong; he didn’t have any judgemental glasses to take off.  While in the flow of painting, his actions in front of the canvas unlocked a process of natural development without self-criticism. Van Gogh’s paintings are like a controlled explosion; an exhilarating performance where he was intensely aware of every stroke.
I’m not saying Van Gogh didn’t have self-doubt, after-all it is believed that he cut his ear off and later committed suicide due to his mental illness at aged 37.  The point I am trying to make is that to achieve what he did on a canvas I suspect that when Van Gogh was in front of the fabric with a brush in his hand, he only focused on the present moment. In the moment of conception, Van Gogh had a strong and deep urge to communicate his emotional feelings.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review

Kerry James Marshall - History of Painting review
Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Van Gogh In Britain, Tate Britain, March 2019
Van Gogh used a carefully chosen palette of colour which was intentionally contrasting. He used a clean brush with the fresh pigment to prevent muddy colours.  Van Gogh was without the usual self-doubt of an artist developing a new style. He put his full attention and observation into what he was doing; nothing more, nothing less.
If ten people saw an identical view and were asked to paint that view, every painting would be different. We each bring our own unique mix of life, history, judgement and experiences forward when we do anything. Everyone has their baggage and subjective view of the world. We all notice that what we feel is essential.  Van Gogh didn’t look at things as they were. He looked deeper, not to what they looked like, but to what only he could see.  He went to great lengths to use a thick impasto style that captured emotions more than any painting had achieved before.  Feelings and emotions were directed into the process of applying paint.  The paintings could not have been made without extreme self-control and concentration in every moment in front of the canvas. For me, Van Gogh prized the importance of his relaxed focus above all else.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review link

Van Gogh Museum
I found that one of the highlights of the show is ‘Hospital at Saint-Remy‘ (1889). Who would have thought that marks on a canvas could make such an impression!  Van Gogh made the painting while admitted to the hospital. He had a natural ability to be able to record what he felt.  His swirling impasto technique with a loaded brush of buttery paint is a delight. He is at one with every stroke.  He reminds me that it so easy to make a mistake by trying too hard.  My successful paintings have come when I haven’t been trying; when my mind is calm and relaxed.
Stuart Bush Studio Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) The Prison Courtyard, 1890 Oil paint on canvas 800 x 640 mm © The Pushkin State, Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Reproductions, photos and film, as well as words, do little to explain the shivering and whirling skies, the crackling and rippling glints of light, the gleaming stars, and the exhilarating flames of summer. Warm colours of yellow, orange and red are in the low part of the canvas.  They play against the cold shades of greens, blues and purples in the top of the painting.  Then Van Gogh uses the lower colours gradual up through the picture. It causes the expressive brush marks to come alive.

A brush load of life – Van Gogh review – related post

All too human, Bacon, Freud and a century of painting life - review
The London experience gave Van Gogh life experience.  I’m sure Dickens had an impact as well as the black and white reproductions by giving him the inspiration he needed to bring emotions and feels to the fore.  However, at the end of the show, I was only partly convinced that London directly inspired Van Gogh expressive work.  Nevertheless, I am thrilled to have a Van Gogh exhibition in London. I have had the chance to digest and appreciate a genius at work.
Van Gogh wasn’t trying to depict what most people see while looking at the world. Van Gogh instead was feeling strong emotions. He had the ability, the skill and the genius to wrap his feelings up in paint; to record them. Van Gogh’s spirit is on his canvases.  He shows us a profound truth about the human condition, in a full and proud statement, so thick it creates a three-dimension effect.
They were more than just paintings to Van Gogh. If you want to see a picture with a brush that is load with life in every stroke, this exhibition is a must see.  Van Gogh completely puts himself in jeopardy for his art.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890) Olive Trees, 1889, Oil paint on canvas, 510 x 652 mm, National Galleries of Scotland

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I wish I could paint everyday

Breakfast with Lucian, book review

Lucian Freud, Breakfast with Lucian Book review, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Lucian Freud, 1922-2011, Girl with a White Dog 1950-1, Oil paint on canvas 762 x 1016 mm © Tate
If you have ever wondered what an artist’s life would be like if they put art first at the expenses of relationships, friendships and family. If so, then this is the book to read.  For a few years before Lucian Freud’s death, Geordie Greig the editor from the Mail on Sunday was able to share breakfast with Lucian at his favourite restaurant, Clarkes on Kensington Church Street.  Greig’s book about Freud does a worthy job of sketching out the painter’s hedonistic personal life.  ‘Breakfast with Lucian’ is the story of an adulterous, brawler and rogue with no boundaries or restraints.
This book is written in the style of an author’s note.  Interesting facts and aspects of his life are uncovered within the writing.  There are many shocking tales of Freud, like the time he smelt a woman strong perfume in public, he raised his voice saying, “I hate perfume. Women should smell of one thing. Cunt! In fact, they should invent a perfume called cunt.”

Accompanying book review: Breakfast with Lucian

Eric Fischl's Bad Boy
Freud was never willing to apologise for his inexcusable behaviour.  His actions are like his paintings, were engaging and frighteningly real.  Greig tried hard to give an account of Freud’s life without judgement or blame but instead, at times, I found it gossipy.  It tends to focus on aspects of his life, like Freud’s role as a father.  I wanted a read a different type of book.  As an artist, I wanted to read about Freud’s ability to undress the human soul in his paintings.
Freud could sketch out a life for what it really was. He had the drive to work towards uncovering answer about being human. Freud explained that “When I’m painting people in clothes I’m thinking very much of naked people, or animals dressed.”  Freud was able to go beyond just painting, to create an ‘intensification of reality.’ He explains, “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.” In his painting practice, he dug deep making this meaning visible for others to see, while everything in his personal life was left to rot.

Resources for Art Books:

Artbook.com
There was clearly a great sacrifice from the people around Freud who put up with the death threats, his scandalous sexual exploits and escaping the Krays. ‘Breakfast with Lucian’ is clearly entertaining, but in spite of that, I wanted to know more about what Freud achieved with his art than whisperings about his personal life.
My overriding feeling is that this is a book of anecdotes which does not try to explain truly explain Freud and the reasons behind his fantastic paintings. When reading it I had to remind myself that it was written by an editor from a daily rag who undoubtedly loves scandal.  It would a completely different book if it was written by an art critic, historian or even an art aficionado.
However, Freud indulgence in his art unquestionably doesn’t justify the way he conducted himself and the way he treated others. Throughout his life’s work, Freud revealed a spectacular spectrum of deep meaning about human life, one that many other artists would be fearful to delve into.

Accompanying book review: Breakfast with Lucian

On being an artist, by Michael Craig-Martin

David Salle undressing the role of the artist and the writer

David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
David Salle, Autumn Rhythm, 2018, oil and acrylic on linen
74 x 91 in, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt,
David Salle, the 65-year-old artist from Norman, Oklahoma, who has amassed many international shows around the world is back.  He has made a promising return to London at the Skarstedt Gallery, with a series of work titled, ‘Musicality and Humour’.  I had high expectations of his work after recently reading his book ‘How to See’ in which Salle explores the work of his peers and undresses the role of the artist and writer. Salle seeks to inform newbies like me how to paint and interestingly, how writing helps artists to understand their own work.
Entering the gallery, I saw the first crowd pleaser, ‘S.P. Divide’, (2018-19). I feel a little overwhelmed as my eyes darted from one part to another.  The visual strength and energy come from the pace of imagination and the zing of the image.
David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Installation shot David Salle Musicality and Humour, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York.
Looking at the subject matter in the series of paintings I am drawn towards Salle’s use of illustrative cartoons which contrast with the colourful stripes and jumbled images.  The strips and monotones cartoons create a stark contrast.  I try to make sense of the visual rules, patterns and processes, which l find are reminiscent of our overloaded undiscernible culture.  It takes a few minutes to steady myself and figure it all out.  I then step back and walk around, finding that not only does Salle start by making that first impression appear unfathomable, but the paintings also draw the viewer in like an addictive crossword.

Related review: David Salle undressing the role of the artist and writer

Tracey Emin: A Fortnight of tears exhibition review
I slowly, patiently, get the answers.  I am reminded of Lichenstein’s use of cartoons however, Salle’s focus is more on the brushwork than the benday dots.  There is clearly a prominence given to how the paintings are made.  The brisk strokes show Salle’s calculated visual fluency, as I imagine the artist listening to Jazz or classical music while he paints.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer
David Salle, Grey Honeymoon, 2018-19, oil and acrylic on linen
74 x 104 in, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York.
Over the top of the canvas, Salle often paints another sketch. The two layers are left as if they out of focus and unrefined. The flaws and errors are on show and are charming.  They add to the appeal and highlight how Salle avoids fuzziness and getting bogged down in perfectionism.
As I walk around I realise the more I look at the subject on the surface I realise its shallowness, the more it appears to be comparable to the superficiality of advertising.  It’s subject matter appears to be chosen for its aesthetical qualities, drawing you in to look for hidden meanings and narratives however, none are there.  I couldn’t fail to notice the visual pun in the painting, ‘Leader of seals.’ Is the man resembling the seals or the seals resembling the man.

David Salle’s website link

DavidSalle.net

Skarstedt Gallery
The paintings have none of the stillness and stuffiness of paintings designed on photoshop.  Each canvas is carefully considered and planned to underscore and give emphasis to the subject matter’s weight, pitch and tone, without feeling plotted or forced. The paintings come from themselves through the process of painting. Each picture is inspired by the previous one bringing into question how we create logic and meaning in our visual culture.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, David Salle undresses the role of the artist and writer
David Salle, Equivalence, 2018, oil and acrylic on linen, 78 x 110 in, © David Salle/VAGA at ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt, New York.
Salle says in his book that writing completes the circle for an artist.  I have found this to be true as this review has helped me to understand what I want to do with my own work. Salle emphasises the mastery of visual communication.  He uses cultural signs as his playthings. Great artists of the past played with the rules and patterns of their time, Salle does the same here.  The cartoons are like cut up comic books or Matisse’s cut-outs.  The colours, tones and forms are put together to achieve new expressive meanings and association.  These encourage us to see the world from Salle’s position where tempo and humour create personality.  His work is a pictorial event. Above all, it succeeds on many levels.  Salle slices through what we see, presenting enduring images that are full of energy.  His painting are unpredictable and highly entertaining.
The show is on at Skarstedt Gallery, London until 26th April 2019

Related review: David Salle undressing the role of the artist and writer

Isle D'Hollander: In and out of abstraction

Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Stuart BuSh Studio Blog Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin, It was all too Much, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 71 3/4 x 71 3/4 in. (182.3 x 182.3 cm)
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis). Courtesy White Cube
Tracey Emin’s career was made on ‘My bed’ (1998) and ‘Everyone I have Ever Slept with 1963-1995’ (1995).  Other career highlights include Charles Saatchi’s ‘Sensations’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997, her Turner Prize nominee in 1999, and her large retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in 2011.  Emin’s reputation has been founded on not only making upfront work and disclosures documenting her colourful life but also for her mastery and skill with a brush in her hand.  I went to her latest show at the White Cube in Bermondsey titled ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ to see if Emin, now that she is 55 and a Royal Academician, is she still relying on shock and revelations about her undomesticated wild side or has she moved on to a new phase of mature work.
 
On entering the exhibition l was immediately reminded of the audience’s role in her work; the role of the voyeur in Emin’s authentic life.  However, in the first room, the experience started with an anticlimax.  The subject of her work was insomnia.  I realise insomnia is very debilitating and impactful on the suffering.  Nevertheless, I found the work lacking in her usual emotion strength and power.  But as l continued to walk along the corridor l delighted in seeing Emin’s signature style painting in full flow on the walls.

Related blog post; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Anni Albers Weaves her Magic
 
Emin is back to her best and ferocious self as she explores the creation of mark making and slaps the brush on the canvas.  Her technical skill and creative energy are on show as she continues to bind her life experiences and artwork together. Bringing together subjects of love, her broken heart after the death of her mother, her abortion, guilt, and her mental and physical state on to the canvas.  Her paintings have the forcible lyric quality of a master at work.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears’, White Cube Bermondsey, 6 February – 7 April 2019
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)
The love of painting is undeniably on show in the large rooms, which along with paintings and large bronze sculptures such as ‘When I sleep’ (2018), continue to show her untamed emotional strength when dealing with a life that has never been untroubled or straight forward.  In the painting, ‘And so it felt like this,’ (2018) Emin erases her complex history with broad brush marks, that nonetheless still creeps through her washes of paint.  An abundant spontaneity flows from her brush as she generalises form.  Which at the same time apprehends her mental state through her emphasis of pure emotion.
 

Related blog post; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Kerry James Marshall, History of Painting
Emin is unafraid to portray what most people would be mortified to show.  She shows she has not lost her power to shock in the video in the auditorium titled, ‘How it feels,’ (1996).  In the video, Emin walks through the streets of London recounting the ordeal of giving birth to a foetus in a taxi in 1991.   It is a very direct and unsettling account of Emin describing and explaining the event and how she feels about not being able to have a child.  It was a shocking and excruciating experience, “I cried because I love you.” says Emin, highlighting her willingness to put everything on show for her artistic career.
 
As I watched the genuine and authentic account of Emin’s experiences, I wondered about her life.  How it is now, compared to how it might have been if she hadn’t realised that she needed to show her authentic life with her art.  If she hadn’t learnt to communicate her life experiences, love, joy, sorrow and anger in her art, her life would have been so very different. 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, SOmetimes there is no reason
Tracey Emin, Sometimes There is No Reason, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 48 1/16 x 48 1/4 in. (122 x 122.5 cm), © Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis) Courtesy White Cube
Emin has always been greatly inspired by Egon Schiele. It is very easy to see their clear connection not only in her work in this exhibition but also their lives too. They both love the exploration of mark making in the craft of painting and drawing.  A gesture in the heat of the moment emphases a moment of time in their eventful lives. 

Related link; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’

Tracey Emin - Hyperallergic
 
Although not all of the work is as powerful  Emin’s reality has crossed boundaries. I have never considered going so far and really putting my heart and life on the line like she has. As I am not willing to display my personal truths like she has. I think most people would be uncomfortable about doing so.   
 
However, as Neil Gaiman said “The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”  I think to myself, “Is this what it takes to be a successful artist?”
Stuart Bush Studio Blog Tracey Emin
Tracey Emin, You Kept watching me, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 48 3/16 x 60 1/16 in. (122.4 x 152.5 cm)
© Tracey Emin. All rights reserved, DACS 2017. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis) Courtesy White Cube

Related blog post; Tracey Emin, ‘A Fortnight of Tears,’ exhibition review

Ilse D'Hollander In and Out of Abstraction

The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

The ultimate experience - Crashing Wave, Mary Heilmann, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
©Mary Heilmann, Crashing Wave 2011 oil on canvas 127 x 101.60 cm, All rights are reversed by the artist
At the Whitechapel Gallery in 2016, many thoughts rushed through my mind the first time I saw the painting ‘Crashing Wave (2011)’ by Mary Heilmann.  As I looked at the painting it evoked a special moment.  I remember being out on my body board on Manly beach, Australia, at complete peace with my surroundings.  The air was crisp, and the sun was bright as I pitched forward. I kicked with my flippers while paddling hard with my hands as I took off down into a crystal clear barrel wave. I rode the perfect wave, a foaming mass of white water.  The ultimate experience!
 
It was a weird feeling being out in the sea, which strangely had surprising similarities to painting in a studio.  There is the same solitude in painting when you’re standing with a brush in front of a canvas.  You’re in apparently harmless water, but there is the feeling that if you’re not alert, like one wrong move at the peak of the wave, you could end up scrambling to stay on the surface. The consequence being that you could get thrown around and washed out. Mental and physically rejected back on the beach or in front of a failed canvas.

Related posts; The ultimate experience – Crashing Wave by Mary Heilmann

What I learnt from Alex Katz
Mary Heilmann’s unforgettable painting combines subject with spills and accidents, runs and washes, that are akin to nature.  Although Hellmann only witnessed surfing as a spectator sport, she has captured its impression in the surface energy of her painting. Using a geometric structure, Mary invites you to have an aesthetic experience.  A remarkable vibrant experience that is enthralling, leaving the feeling that reality has been refreshed.
 
Mary highlights the need to be at one with what you are doing.  One mistake and it’s over.  In both situations, you can spend a lot of time thinking and waiting for the right moment; the right wave or inspiration to get started. Hoping for the world to move through you. Undisturbed by turmoil and disorder.  Aiming for a placid stream of serenity where things come together in the stillness.  When you are in tune with that stillness, incline your mind towards a majestic moment.   Confronting the sharpness of life as you harness nature and ride the wave of an idea back to shore.

External related link

Mary Heilmann's biography - artnet.com

As Mary Heilmann says, “Each of my pictures can be seen as an autobiographical marker. A cue by which I evoke a moment from my past or my projected future. Each a charm to conjure a mental reality and to give it physical form.”

 
Mary Heilmann was born in 1940 in California. As a student, she trained as a ceramicist and a sculptor. After trying to complete in an all-male environment in both these fields she struggled to get any attention.   Then Heilmann decided to paint. She had her first show in New York in 1970 at the Whitney Museum of American Art after moving to New York in 1968.

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Understanding the 'Oak Tree' in conceptual art via Russian Politics

Anni Albers weaves her magic

Stuart Bush Studio blog, Anni Albers Wall Hangings
Anni Albers Wall Hanging 1926 Mercerized cotton, silk, 2032 x 1207 mm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Everfast Fabrics Inc. and Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1969 © 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London
Anni Albers at Tate Modern (11 October 2018 – 27 January 2019)
There was clearly was a buzz in the room when I entered the show at the Tate Modern. It was Saturday afternoon and the show was packed with inquisitive faces.  The Anni Alber’s exhibition was arranged to highlight her life’s work and show how her ambitious ideas started.  The ancient craft of weaving portrays the potential to impact peoples lives with beauty and functionality on its own terms. Textiles are at the heart of many cultures and this knowledge is passed on through the generations.  In this exhibition Anni Albers weaves her magic, by combining the attitude of the Bauhaus with the roots of modern abstraction.   
 
When looking for an exciting art exhibition, textiles is not something I am usually drawn to.  Similarly this must of been how Anni Albers felt when she joined the Bauhaus. On her arrival at the Bauhaus in 1922, Albers was encouraged to participate in the ‘Women’s workshop’ and dissuaded from joining the men’s painting class.  Although Anni was initially unenthusiastic about weaving, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to her.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Anni Albers weaving in her studio
Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College, 1937
Weaving has the potential to interlink many disciplines including art, design and craftmanship. Here Albers was able to explore her creative ideas away from any direct male competition.  She found a unique way forward incorporating beauty and delight in the structural principles of textiles and abstraction.  Textiles allowed her see the perfect marriage of grids, lines and repetitive patterns.

Anni Albers weaves her magic

Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
 
Albers was able to fully capitalise on the Bauhaus way of teaching by going back to basics where form follows function.  She saw the opportunity to combine it with ideas from highly influential key figures around her. People like Josef Albers, the painter and colourist who she married in 1925, and the painter Paul Klee.  Her weavings and wall art helped Anni Albers earn a passport to the US, enabling Albers and her husband to flee from the rise of the Nazi party in 1933.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Anni Albers TR II
Anni AlbersTR II1970Lithograph50.5 x 55.6 cmThe Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Bethany CT© 2018 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, LondonPhoto: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art
From the US, Albers made frequent trips to Peru, Cuba, Chile and Mexico.  These inspiring trips encouraged her to see textiles from a new perspective.  She found, that weaving was capable of serving a communication purpose in different cultures with no written language.  It was also able to compete with painting and sculpture; and had an impact on architecture and printmaking. 
 
Albers took massive strides forward with what she later called ‘pictorial weavings’. The amalgamation of geometric abstraction into textiles were beautiful artworks in their own right.  Albers cemented her position in the world of art by hanging her weavings on the wall, competing directly with other forms of art like painting.  She became a catalyst in the revolution between arts and craft, aesthetics and function. The ideas developed at the Bauhaus have filtered into our daily life.   I recommend a trip to see this thought provoking interlace of ideas.
 

Related blog post; Anni Albers weaves her magic

Colour is for squares - Exhibition review of Josef Albers, 'Sunny side up'

The inspirational work of Franz Kline

Stuart Bush Studio Blog Franz Kline
Franz Kline, Vawdavitch, 1955. Oil on canvas, all rights remain with the artist
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

Abstract expressionism at the Royal Acamdemy of Arts, London
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.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog Franz Kline
Franz Kline, Andrus, 1961, All rights remain with the artist
 
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

Abstract Expressionism - A time line of history, The Met
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

What I have learnt from Alex Katz

Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled, 1996 Oil on canvas, 41 x 29 cm, © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
There is something very solitary about Isle D’Hollander’s art. She paints modest and subtle paintings that float in and out of abstraction.  In this review of her exhibition at Victoria Miro in Mayfair, I want to discuss her work as she immerses herself in the now, and interpret the open questions she asks through painting.  
 
D’Hollander’s paintings are like a form of mediation with Belgian landscape; as she tries to capture aspects of the illusion we see.  The uncomplicated studies are painted from memory after long walks and cycle rides.  They have a tranquillity resembling the gently, rolling, green landscape. They are instruction us to be more present with regards to nature, to notice and to look at what is behind our reality and life.

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

Kerry James Marshall, The History of Painting
 
D’Hollander uses paint to try to find herself.  Her painting ‘Untitled,’ 1996 hints at abstraction however is entrenched in reality.  It is painted with soft thin layers of paint referencing the landscape even though it rejects most of the detail.  The sombre tones of the painting are like a lightly applied mist.  Words really don’t do this tender little painting justice.  It grasps at feelings and emotions that evade commentary.  The quick studies appear to be completed without doubt or hesitation but as a painter, I feel the deep insecurities that lurk under the surface.  
 
In Untitled 1992-93, in the back room of the gallery, perception is everything as representation completely recedes.  Like her other paintings, it needs time to look at and investigate in order to get a sense of it. Her paintings are intended to be mysterious.  
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled, 1996 Oil on canvas, 41 x 36 cm, © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
Through abstraction, the paintings to try to portray more than realism can offer.  Therefore, grasping at timeless primitive forces and going beyond what is visual.  Different weights, different velocities of marks add to the overall effect.  Wet and dry marks, with a brush, a palette knife, a cloth or by using fingers stimulate an emotional response.  Like a musician composing harmony and using dynamic configurations for pitch, tempo, and space.  The tonally graded colours work to give emotion like an eloquent drama.  The colours and forms depicting the impact of modern life on the human soul.
 
In 1907, Wilhelm Worringer wrote, “The tendency to abstraction is a consequence of people’s deep insecurity about the world.” Deep insecurities and uncertainity about the world is motivation for many painters and artists.  As a painter, I use paint to try to access the deep meaning that is indeed hard to describe.  Like D’Hollander, l work and strive towards a poetic quality.  
 

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

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D’Hollander sadly committed suicide aged 28.  I do hope the lack of recognition in her life had nothing to do with the choice to take her own life.  During her life, D’Hollander had only one solo show. It is  sad to think that painting wasn’t able to keep her in this world for longer.  
 
D’Hollander discounted the importance of what she had achieved.  The body of work she left behind from 1989 to 1997 shows a maturity that doesn’t reflect her young age.  Her artwork is interesting and exciting with each painting asking a different question about why things need to be different.
 
 
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out of abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled, 1996 Oil on canvas, 47 x 40 cm, © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
In Neil Gaiman ‘Make Good art Speech’ he talks about what you need to be thick skinned to have a life in the arts, in this world, it’s shame that D’Hollander didn’t hear it.
 
“a life in the arts, is sometimes like putting messages in bottles, on a desert island, and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it, and put something in a bottle that will wash its way back to you: appreciation, or a commission, or money, or love. And you have to accept that you may put out a hundred things for every bottle that winds up coming back.”
 

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

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The small paintings are so full emotion and feelings. With their own unique rhythm.  As a body of work, there is energy running through the paintings.  An enquiry into what painting can express.  With representation partly left behind, the painting goes beyond what realism can offer.
 
The life of an artist is very precarious.  D’Hollander left this world leaving these poignant painting, in some way making life better for all us.  They help us understand that there is more to what we can see.  It is a real shame she isn’t here her to celebrate some of the love and appreciation before departing.
Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Isle D'Hollander, In and out of abstraction
Isle D’Hollander, Untitled 1992-93 Mixed media on cardboard 71 x 100 cm © The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander. Courtesy The Estate of Ilse D’Hollander and Victoria Miro, London/Venice
 
 

Related post; Isle D’Hollander – in and out of abstraction

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What I have learnt from Alex Katz

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Alex Katz
Alex Katz Coca Cola Girls Timothy Taylor Gallery ©All rights remain with the artist and the gallery
What I have learnt from Alex Katz;  In 1973 Alex Katz had his first exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in New York.  At the same time, Abstract Expressionism was riding a wave of popularity in New York.  Katz believed and trusted that what he was interested in was of substance and significance, even though it went against the grain.

 

On first impression Alex Katz’s work appears to be about people and the landscape. However it doesn’t take long to realise that the subject matter is just the outer most boundary of the painting and Katz has a lot more on offer in his paintings.  Katz focuses on ordinary, everyday life as a subject, but his paintings are anything but ordinary.  The style, the present moment and formal qualities are the real focus of his work.

Related blog post; What I learnt from Alex Katz

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Even thought he received negative comments about his work from the likes of Clement Greenberg, Katz’s supreme confidence and clarity gave him the self-belief that his paintings could stand up against his peers.  He took on the Abstract Expressionists with their large canvases, and he tried to knock them dead with the power of his images.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Alex Katz
Alex Katz, Serpentine Gallery installation view 2016 @Alex Katz, All rights reserve with the artist
Katz’s paintings have a cinematic feel with bright, bold figures reminiscent of popular culture and commercial art.  By focusing on ephemeral moments and the everyday on the surface of his paintings, Katz’s found the space to develop a highly stylised painting shorthand.  By having his focus on the present, his work is always about the now. Meanwhile, other art movements came and went as the decades past.

 

The paintings are clearly figurative, but the spaces within the picture creates abstract elements. Katz’s, by simplifying the shape and form of colour in his pictures created a type of grammar that is abstract.  This grammar brings the composition together giving the paintings a spirit and energy.

Related blog post; What I have learnt from Alex Katz

I wish I could paint everyday

The surface of the painting is all done with a quick flick of his brush, allowing a vast canvas to be to be painted in under 5 hours.  The brushwork is simple, creating an almost naive shorthand that is precise and unfussy.  You can tell that Katz isn’t exaggerating about the 1000s of paintings he threw away in order to get the ‘big technique’ mastered.

Stuart Bush Studio Blog, Alex Katz
Alex Katz, Black Paintings Timothy Taylor Gallery, London 2017 ©Alex Katz, All rights are reserved by the artist
The style of painting allows for the simplest of effort to get the detail correct.  Using line and colour the whole comes together and takes centre stage.  The painting’s colour and its intensity stand out over the detail.  As Katz’s puts it, the ’style is the content’.  The outcome is a body of work that feels fresh with vitality. 

 

By understanding how Katz has removed the illusion of depth and focused on style and fashion and the light on the surface, I have learnt a lot about how Katz has a created an ever-changing image of the presence.  In 1947 Adolph Gottlieb said, “The role of the artist has always been that of image-maker. Different times require different images…To my mind, certain so-called abstraction is not abstraction at all. On the contrary, it is the realism of our time”. Katz’s paintings really have created the realism and the immediate presence of time.  The ordinary is flat, but it has an intensity about it that is stimulating and sensational.  Alex Katz’s has the right to be satisfied and self-assured, his work is always about the now.

Alex Katz; Coca-Cola Girls is currently on show at the Timothy Taylor Gallery in London until 21 December 2018.

Related blog post; What I have learnt from Alex Katz

The inspirational work of Egon Schiele

Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

Kerry James Marshall, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Underpainting), 2018 courtesy of the David Zwirner Gallery
Kerry James Marshall, the American artist, is increasingly being recognised as a significant painter and modern master.  His work confronts questions about what is represented in art and more importantly what has been left out.  In this review of Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting at David Zwirner’s gallery in London, I want to look at the way Marshall uses in-depth knowledge and understanding of art history to inform his work and inspire a new generation of artists.  
 
Kerry James Marshall was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Los Angles.  He currently lives in Chicago.  At the beginning of Marshall’s journey to becoming a successful artist, he started, like most students by learning to copy.  He studied a wide range of art from the great masters from European history to abstract expressionism and pop art and all the essential work in-between.  As a result of Marshall devouring and truly penetrating what had gone on before, he developed a broad theoretical understanding and technical skills.
 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

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When it came to choosing his style Marshall had an informed understanding.  He decided to work with a deeply felt, intense narrative style that he learnt from grand European history paintings. Marshall felt this style of picture making is familiar to many people and would be the best way for him to help derive meaning from our lives.  
Kerry James Marshall, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Large Colours) (2018) ©Kerry James Marshall, Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner
The painting titled, ‘Untitled (Underpainting)’ 2018 highlights how Marshall has learnt to evaluate art. It is a painting of African Americans children enjoying and learning about art in a museum.  It references many great works like Samuel Morse’s, ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ (1831-3). A painting where rich, white people are enjoying a rich visual field of pictures in a gallery.  The African Americans figures in the picture are having a great time, enjoying looking at grand paintings made by American Africans.  The narrative blatantly challenges how the identity of African Americans are displayed. 
 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

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Kerry James Marshall said, “When most people go to a big museum like the Louvre, it reaffirms their idea of what real art is supposed to look like. And if you keep going to the Louvre and Tate Britain and you don’t see black people in those pictures, then you don’t think black people belong in these kinds of pictures… People need to start thinking that these pictures belong in those places, too.”
 
Portrait painting is often intertwined with character, wealth and status. In Marshall’s portrait paintings we see the world with fresh eyes. In ‘Day and Night’ 2018, he asks us to stop and consider our oversimplified misconceptions.  Marshall’s paintings, ask the viewer to look into the eyes of African Americans, to reconsider the opinions, stories and stereotypes they have been given. To re-evaluate what is valuable, neglected and demeaned.
 
‘Untitled (Large Colours)’ 2018, is a competent abstract painting that deals with the language of painting where discovery and execution happen simultaneously.  It discusses the emotional impact and essence of art.
 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

Tomma Abts Serpentine Exhibition
 
Marshall’s auction series of works is about the commercial value of art.  It is based on the prices of art at auction. Marshall is understandably asking questions about the importance of art considering he recently sold a painting for £15.6 million at auction.
 
Kerry James Marshall, Stuart Bush Studio Blog
Kerry James Marshall History of Painting (May 16 2007), 2018 courtesy of The David Zwirner Gallery
This month Marshall has been named the most influential contemporary artist in the 17th edition of the ArtReview Power 100.   This shows that he has become an inspirational figure to a new generation of artists. Marshall leads the way encouraging them to believe they too can be successful and have their work in these critical artistic establishments.  
 
His approach of starting at the beginning and learning everything of importance has been instrumental in Kerry James Marshall’s success.  With the simple goal of wanting to make the best painting he could, Marshall followed the proven track of many artists. Marshall paints as a form of activism to promote, challenge and ask questions about how people from his background are portrayed.  Now with his painting is institutions around the world, he steps forward as an inspirational artist trying to rebalance the objectivity of art intuitions.  Marshall leads the way to change the way art and art establishment conducts its view of the world. 

Related post: Kerry James Marshall: History of painting

A review of Sean Scully's work