patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Abstraction, decoration and Tomma Abts by Dan Coombs in Turps Banana

with 3 comments

In Turps Banana issue ten, Dan Coombs writes about the paintings of Tomma Abts. I like her work. At least I think I do, only having seen it in reproduction, and looking forward to seeing some of it in ‘real life’ soon.

Tomma Abts, Schwiddo, 2008, Oil and acrylic on canvas (46 x 38 cm). Courtesy of the artist and greengrassi, London

One of the recurring themes of this blog is abstraction and its relationship (or not) to decoration. In his Turps Banana article Coombs makes some interesting points on this subject. I have noticed that whenever the ‘D’ word is used in relation to abstract art it is usually the late modernist painters, championed by Clement Greenberg, that we have in mind.  I remember being horrified at a lecture by Peter Fuller in 1979 when he referred to the paintings of Jules Olitski as ‘terrible’ (in the bad sense) and I think it was what Coombs calls the ‘innocently decorative’ that he was reacting against, and what the earlier generation Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman referred to pejoratively as ‘batik’. Coombs suggests that what Greenberg left out was the psychological component of art, a dimension he finds plenty of in Abts paintings and that prevents them from ever becoming ‘innocently decorative’.

I like his discussion of Abts’ painting Schwiddo, shown above, where he senses a note of disquiet invoked by the dip in tone within the smaller of the two central circles. I agree with him, and I wonder how it works: how is it that I interpret a dip in tone as a note of disquiet? And this interpretation is only secondarily cognitive, I can describe my experience in this way but first I feel it, somatically. It is this kind of experience that makes the painting more than decorative, and in Coombs’ words nudges it “towards having a subject, or more precisely, into being a subject”.  I am reminded of that famous cartoon by Ad Reinhardt of the abstract painting in a museum confronting the viewer who had mockingly asked “what does this represent?” Pointing its finger back at the viewer the painting  demands “what do you represent?”

(The new issue of Turps Banana also carries, among other things, articles about Sean Scully, René Daniëls, Christopher P. Wood, Che Lovelace, Gavin Lockheart and Rose Wylie. As usual there is a plate entitled The Banana, in this issue by Dolly Thompsett. And whilst on the subject of bananas, though nothing at all to do with the Turps Banana,  I couldn’t help but connect to the blog posts I saw yesterday at Geokult on Carmen Banana, Big Banana Time, and Going Bananas)

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Written by Andy Parkinson

October 14, 2011 at 8:48 am

3 Responses

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  1. I have the same feeling about Abts too. I like her work. I like that she works mostly in one format. I like her shapes. But there is something that I find a bit too cold. What is though? I can’t say.
    I’ve read your other posts about Turps Banana, and it sounds like a great magazine.

    sbmacinnis

    October 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    • thanks for your comments Stephen, yes it is a truly great magazine. It is written by painters and I think that makes it very special indeed. There are quite a few interviews too, and they are more like conversations between two painters.

      Andy Parkinson

      October 15, 2011 at 11:53 am

  2. Wow, you’re right. At first I just thought the smaller circle was further away, but when I clicked the image and viewed it full size — yeah, a definite inexplicable note of disquiet coming from that circle.

    I’ll have to try to find that magazine too. If it’s written by painters, about paintings, that should be interesting indeed!

    And thanks for visiting my blog! 🙂

    zorgor

    November 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm


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