Posts Tagged ‘abstract painting’
Attempting to get some of the ad-hoc feel of the drawings into a little painting, here’s another network of loosely drawn figures, where, depending partly on the drawing and partly on the choice of colour, each central asterisk exhibits a greater or lesser degrees of neon colour-spread, when compared to the others.
The colour-spread effect in each figure exists inside a subjectively constructed disk, more or less circular, more or less transparent (or neon like). The colour-spread effects and the contours that contain them really exist, but only for subjectivity.
A recent visit to Aberdeen meant I got chance to visit Aberdeen Art Gallery, an impressive space, with an impressive collection including some contemporary works and, my particular interest: abstract paintings. The John Copnall painting Green For Cathy, 1973, looks like it was a painted especially for this space, even though it was not actually a site specific work. (There’s a better photo of it here.)
According to the label it had been included in a solo show of Copnall’s paintings at Aberdeen Art Gallery in 1974 and was purchased later that year. Set amongst other more contemporary art works here, not necessarily paintings, I think it demonstrates something of the power of formalist painting, even now, long after its ‘moment’ has supposedly passed.
Seeing it from a distance the relationship between painting and place is what I am most aware of, the painting’s verticality echoing and perhaps also competing with the architecture, such that “architectural” is an adjective for the artwork that seems difficult to resist. Getting close up, no new information is revealed in terms of detail, brush strokes for example, yet the experience is different. From here it’s me and the colour that forms the primary relationship.
Absolutely not seeing a window on the world, just me and it, my awareness of the ‘here and now’ is heightened. Here in this place the ‘now’ continues on for a while, its content remaining unchanged, leading to this stretching out of the experience. Not eternal or timeless, this ‘now’, comprised of smaller ‘now’s, each one giving way to another, also contains multiple ‘then and there’s. For example, I am remembering my brother’s criterion for a good painting: that it will continue to get better even after repeated viewings, something I learned when we were looking at a painting in the Whitworth a few weeks ago. And now I am considering whether this painting would achieve his criterion. I also find myself making comparisons with other artists, clear influences of Copnall, like Barnett Newman and Morris Louis.
Then, as I break state by starting to move away I notice an after image, my own projection on the white wall, instead of an expanse of red I see an expanse of green with narrow red black and orange stripes at the edge.
And I also realize that since stepping into the gallery I have been dimly aware of a familiar sound, emphasizing not the extended ‘now’ but its opposite, the continual repetition of beginning and ending, and especially ending. If it wasn’t that I love the song Room to Roam by Mike Scott, from the 1990 Waterboys album of the same title, I might find the constant repetition of it annoying. The song, featured in an audio visual artwork by Jacques Coetzer, stresses the word “end” in the repeated line “ending in one end” but then when it’s played on a loop that emphasis is magnified. Even when you are not looking at the piece it can be heard all around the gallery. And it doesn’t end there, it continues to repeat in my head long after the gallery visit is over.
I do enjoy the video, and the associations it has for me, remembering that when that album was first released my friend bought a copy on the strength of hearing the Waterboys earlier Album This is the Sea, which includes the amazing song The Whole of the Moon. I had lent my copy to him and he liked it so much that he went out and bought the new Album, only to find that he hated it, so he gave it to me, (thanks Simon).
Painting is less intrusive, it can more easily be ignored, and recollecting a painting afterwards I tend to find more difficult than with a song. But despite the pleasure I gain from the audio/video, it is the paintings that really interest me, the Copnall on one side of the Coetzer, and Rumbold Vertical Four: Green in Green with Blue and Red, 1970 by Patrick Heron on the other side. (A better photo here.)
Like Green for Cathy its verticality seems particularly right for this place, almost like the venue requires a strong visual statement. The two paintings look good together, sharing similar themes: an expanse of colour bordered by stripes on the right hand edge, Copnall’s stripes being more ‘optical’ and Heron’s more wobbly. (Didn’t he once refer to his paintings as “Wobbly hard edge”?) In this informal series Heron combines the stripe with positive/negative circular motifs that look like cut outs. Figure ground relationships shift and colours that ‘should’ recede (e.g. blue) seem to project forward. He seems also play with the idea of ‘on’ versus ‘in’.
64 sets of diagonal lines in clockwise rotation: red, blue, gold…
…each set is an interpretation all of its own.
It includes works from his series of Exposed Paintings, where using turpentine, he removes layers of black oil paint to reveal underlying colours, leaving the evidence of his process on the canvas and around the canvas edges.
As I am examining the edges of the canvas to attempt to discover which colours were laid down first a man interrupts me to ask
“have you found any?”
I think there are some, but the removing of paint is more evident and the multiple layers tend to prevent the perception of individual mark-making.
There are paintings here also from the Monologue series, in which washes resembling a waterfall or a mist cover the entire canvas. Innes’s paintings are rarely ever strictly ‘monochromes’, but I do think that they speak from and to that tradition, and I wonder if the title of this series hints at this.
All the paintings here are of a fair size, big but not massive. There are paintings that do not appear to belong to a named series, Untitled no 31 for example. On second thoughts, they do form a series: the Untitled series in which the canvas is divided vertically into two sections, sometimes into roughly equal halves, but not always.
Sitting down, I look at Untitled no 31 for a long time and it is only the nagging awareness of an upcoming appointment that eventually motivates me to get going. I want to say that there’s something timeless about it except that it also seems to mark the passing of time both of the artist in the making of it and of the viewer who wishes to stay on and gaze. It may be more accurate to say that it induces a time distortion. I get absorbed in the process of seeing, at first accompanied with internal dialogue but less and less so. Time seems to have stopped. It’s not altogether a reverie, nor is it all emotion; whilst there is something emotional about it, there is also “something for the mind to do”. I become fascinated by the line that separates the two ‘halves’ or that joins them, there does seem to be an actual line which can be seen very close up, absent from middle distance but becoming magnified optically after prolonged viewing from where I am seated a few feet away. The surface also takes on a slightly undulating quality. I have the impression that these optical effects are bi-products of the painting process rather than deliberately sought after or designed-in by the artist.
The exhibition also has a selection of works on paper and 20 new watercolours made especially for the Whitworth.The watercolours are displayed laid flat on a long table in a manner that recalls the process of making them. Innes lays the sheets of paper out in sequence and works on them in order, beginning each one by masking off a square in the centre of the paper, blocking it out with a wash of watercolour and leaving it to partially dry before removing the masking and adding further layers allowing them to be slightly larger or smaller than the initial square, so residues of the unmixed colours remain at the edges.
Each work combines two colours transforming them in the process into a new, indeterminable hue. I am reminded of the dialectical triad: thesis, antithesis, synthesis, which in turn reminds me that no ‘formalist’ painting can ever be only formal, it is always also trans-formal.
There is something right about seeing them laid horizontally, partly because it maintains the sequence, encouraging me to see each individual work as a part of a larger whole, and partly because I think the colours are slightly intensified when seen in this orientation.
These works, whether the large paintings or the watercolours, are only deceptively, simple. All the actions that are documented in the production process are in themselves very simple, and sometimes they result in paintings that at first glance also seem simple. Yet linger only a short while and their complexity becomes more apparent. And it’s paradoxical in that the process of making is never hidden, it is in one sense clearly displayed. However, the moment I try to piece it together it eludes me it all starts to seem too difficult to follow, much of the process now being obscured by the very action of layering and removal of paint. If I might switch sensory systems for a moment I could say that viewing them is akin to the experience of listening to music by Steve Reich, on the one hand simple ( I resist the ‘minimalist’ tag) and on the other, highly complex.
The Callum Innes exhibition, part of the Whitworth Spring Season, opened on 2 March and continues to 16 June 2013.
A descriptive title for this new painting would be Pattern: Sixty Four Sets of Eighteen Diagonal Stripes in Clockwise Rotation: Sienna, Violet, Blue…
…or just Sienna Violet Blue for short
It’s tiny, almost a miniature at 9″ x 9″ and not quite finished as I have yet to erase the pencil lines.
I don’t know what it is about this theme…
…that makes me want to come back and do it again – only better. The one above is from 2011.
Here was an attempt from last year…
…too quick, too casual
I’m back on it this year but much slower and with more precision. Sticking with the high colour (too decorative to be decorative) at least for now.
It’s funny how differently I am approaching the painting of it after doing so many smaller (mostly unsuccessful) paintings in 2012. Also, it’s only 20″ x 20″ and it feels big!
In this little painting the four quadrants are related to each other by repetition and inversion. The figures, the ‘circles’ that are not really circles at all, four Ehrenstein figures and four Redies & Spillmann figures*, are separated from each other vertically and horizontally in intervals of four i.e you count 1, 2 ,3 nodes and the fourth is a ‘circle’. The Ehrenstein figures are gaps and the others are continuations of the black lines in a discontinuous colour, resembling coloured asterisks where the lines meet.
The photo fairly accurately shows how when you get right up close the light purple asterisks no longer look like circles at all , but as soon as you step only a few inches away they become convincing coloured circles with a transparent ‘glow’ hence the phenomenon is known as ‘neon colour-spread’. The eye/brain constructs the circles. Earlier I painted them in white and no colour spread took place at all so they remained asterisks at all distances. I had a hunch that would happen. I think that when the tonal contrast with the ground is very stark the colour-spread formation is inhibited.
Does the photo show that the ground is gold or does it look more like plain yellow? You may be able to tell from the photo that the ground is made up of a pattern of slightly varying colours. In a previous painting the coloured under-painting was dominant (too much so), here you can barely tell that it is there (easier in ‘real life’).
*I’ve forgotten whether that’s a name I picked up from my reading about these phenomena or whether it is my own name for the neon colour- spread figures, like the Ehrensteins, simply named after the inventor(s) – Christoph Redies and Lothar Spillmann. Brought to my attention by Donald D Hoffman in his amazing book Visual Intelligence.