Wednesday 2 April 2014

Classic Abstraction

As I am preparing new abstract work, my thoughts are revisiting classic abstract artists whose work had a great effect on the way I like to paint. I love this picture of Helen Frankenthaler in her studio. I have never had a large work space but have always made good use of the space I have!

A gorgeous, ethereal Frankenthaler painting.

Mark Rothko's paintings have always appealed to me. About 1980 I read Lee Seldes' 1979 book, The Legacy of Mark Rothko, and was convinced that Rothko's suicide was a set-up. Bad dealings of galleries and corporate greed made interesting reading but unfortunately it was a well-researched factual book, not a novel.

I have only gotten to experience the Rothko Room once, when it was still at Tate Britain (it was moved to Tate Modern but must be in storage as the paintings are never on display when I visit London!). I was lucky to have no one else around in the room and was seated on my own. The paintings seemed to hum and open a door into thoughtfulness.

I think it was in 1981 when, with several of art school graduates, I visited the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. There is a large collection of Clyfford Still paintings there which are huge. I remember being hugely impressed by their colour and size!

Abstraction was also happening in Canada in the same time frame as the New York school of classic abstract expressionism (1950s) and being in art school in Toronto I became familiar with Canadian content! I liked the work of Paul Emile Borduas.

There was a huge show in the Art Gallery of Ontario of Gershon Iskowitz in the early 1980s. Again I could not fail to be impressed by the size and colour of his paintings.

Jack Bush is probably the best known of the Canadian abstract artists.

Another American abstract artist whose work appeals to me is Robert Motherwell.

I love seeing work from Motherwell's Elegy series. I can imagine myself painting the paintings with large brushes, plenty of space, etc. A painting fantasy!

I probably saw the work of Richard Diebenkorn on visits to museums in New York in the early 80s.

It is the application of paint and working out of composition in his work that really appeals to me.

It is Diebenkorn's work which is echoing in my mind when I am thinking of my next paintings Fever Afterimages.

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