Sunday, 27 June 2010

Slavoj Žižek

" I hate simple narratives.
I suspect them.
This is my automatic reaction." 

 Slavoj Žižek from an interview with Sean O'Hagan in the Observer

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Extreme Painting Montreal

Félicitations absolument superbes de Montréal.

Montreal is hosting a festival of painting and by all accounts it is dominated by abstract painting. The list of galleries and venues participating is extensive and obviously a wonderful collaborative effort.

Wil Murray Run Through Candy Floss Fields Forever 2005 - During "Extreme Painting" Murray will show at Galerie René Blouin Jul 10 to Aug 21 he is based in Berlin / photo Guy L’Heureux

Flow Zone, Music and Speed

Following a recent conversation about the feelings involved when painting, with David Moxon:

The discussion we had was about the sensation of speed when painting, that was akin to driving a formula one car (imagined you understand - we have never been behind the wheel of one!).  The sense is that there are so many decisions being made with such a fine tuned machina that the slightest error feels loaded with risk. It is addictive like an extreme sport and actively affects material - the painting, mind, body and soul. The sensation of speed rises to the point where/when the decisions are made unconsciously.  When things become more contemplative, designed and slower there is a feeling of having time traveled. As you pop out of this accelerated state of mind there is the jolt of feeling time has flown by, that hours have passed since you started work and yet the passage of time has felt fractions of what the clock now tells you. This is not escapism as in this engagement you are confronted intensely with oneself in the world. This is not unique to painting. What is,is the record of this time. This state was named flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

Leslie Wayne in his statement for the current show at Jack Shainman in New York writes about this 'letting go'. "The series was inspired by an article in the New Yorker entitled “The Eureka Hunt” (July 28, 2008), describing a situation in which a fire fighter’s instinct saved his life. The article articulated an interesting condition of mental acuity, which is not unlike that of an artist and their studio practice in a moment of inspiration. Noting that artists often try to achieve a state of grace - of “letting go” or “getting in the zone” - by listening to music, listening to music became a driving principle behind the development of these paintings, and ultimately a condition of their creation."

I no longer listen to music when I paint as I have found it keeps me out of this zone and away from the difficult places acting as a tie to the 'outside time'. The painting is not illustrative but a reality. It doesn't magically communicate these thoughts although it is a document and a testament to the activity and the passage of time.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

'Process / Abstraction' at Paul Kasmin Gallery, NY

A mixed bag of abstract painters are currently on show at an exhibition entitled "Process / Abstraction," at the Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 Tenth Avenue, New York from 10th June to 2nd July, 2010.This seems like yet another cool and reductive choice of works here, curating both living contemporary practitioners with old dead ones.. I'd be interested if anyone who has seen the show?

                                          (C) Kasmin Gallery

The gallery press states:
'Connecting the ideas and practices of Simon Hantaï and Frank Stella with a younger generation of abstractionists like Nathan Hylden and Zak Prekop, the exhibition examines the constraints, procedures and repeated gestures used by these artists to create new images. From folding to pouring to combining and systematically recombining a set of visual components, many of these artists begin with deliberate and well-defined parameters and then introduce an element of chance. In their final forms, these works present a record of the processes employed while outlining new directions in pictorial abstraction.'
What are the new directions, please tell?...

A couple of contemporary Brit painters in Walead Beshty and Ian Davenport.

Artists included are: Walead Beshty, Daniel Buren, Ian Davenport, Simon Hantaï, Nathan Hylden, Morris Louis, James Nares, Kenneth Noland, Zak Prekop, David Ratcliff, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Christopher Wool.

Monday, 21 June 2010

John Cage 'Every Day is A Good Day' Baltic, Gateshead, England

John Cage, 'Dereau, No.11 ' , 1982, Watercolour, Colour photetching with engraving, drypoint and aquataint

A retrospective exhibition of John Cage is currently taking place at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, in Gateshead, England called 'Every Day is A Good Day', from 19th June - 5th September 2010. This exhibition is showing a number of artworks, from drawings, watercolours and prints. This is an exhibition that is a celebration of his influence in the UK and Europe. 

Cage has had a significant following in the UK, along with Kurt Schwitters, the ideas and processes used by both artists have been built in to the very fabric of the Britsh art school system. Cage visited England as part of his European tour in 1930, influencing students and practitioners at Dartington Hall, Devon, which along with Bath Academy of Art, Wiltshire, is the closest the UK got to the Black Mountain College where Cage was so influential. (see also the modernist building High Cross House). Dartington was also visited by Mark Tobey in the 1930's (infact both Tobey and the ceramicist Bernard Leach visited Japan together from there).

Tate Modern also has the 'Cage Paintings' by Gerhard Richter who was also greatly inspired by him.
Gerhard  Richter, Cage 1-6          Copyright Gerhard  Richter

Baltic states: 'Every Day is a Good Day is the first major exhibition and publication devoted to the entire range of American composer, writer and artist John Cage’s prints, watercolours and drawings. Cage was one of the leading avant-garde composers of the twentieth century, most famous perhaps for his silent work of 1952, 4'33".'

Also at Baltic, there is also an exhibition by contemporary artists, many British, who have been influenced by him entitled: Cage Mix: Sculpture and Sound from 29th May - 19th September 2010; with a diverse mix of processes in a number of media, this exhibition explores abstraction in its many forms.

'Consistently unconventional, John Cage unravelled the rules of musical composition, re-thinking and re-presenting the score. His subversive ideas and lectures on music in the 1940s and 50s were catalysts that continue to be significant to contemporary artists working today.'

'Cage Mix: Sculpture and Sound' brings together the work of eight contemporary artists that use the writings and scores of Cage as a source of inspiration: Sam Belinfante, Graham Gussin, Christian Marclay, Jeremy Millar, Katie Paterson, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Richard Rigg and Katja Strunz.'

Friday, 18 June 2010

Jane Harris - Divine

I thought I first came across Jane Harris's work at a conference on abstract painting at Warwick University where an exhibition at The Mead gallery included her work, but I can't find it on her CV so I might be mistaken.

Jane Harris was nominated for the Wollaston prize at the Royal Academy. The work up for consideration was 'Divine' a large ethereal painting described by Andrew Graham Dixon as an ' alternative doily'.

Jane Harris does reveal new motifs which for a while were in danger of becoming a branding logo. Her colour selections are gentle and considered. I enjoy her drawings and watercolours which could easily topple into computer design or crop circle fractal patterning but appear because of the handling, to have organically grown and meandered into being.

She didn't win. The prize went to Yinka Shonibare for a classic car with its wheel broken off and a number plate 'FTSE' with the driver collapsed, dressed in signature Shonibare patterned dress.

Neeplephutian survey

Neeplphut: Of course. That is the overriding aim of the Institute of Simple Systems. To understand something is to simplify it. Theories destroy facts, metatheories destroy theories, and so on. The culmination of all that the institute stands for is to close itself down. What use is art if all it can do is complicate your view of the world? Every artist should try seeing the world in the simplest possible way. I am certain that your Terran artists would agree/disagree.
Delete which ever is inapplicable.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams. I have replaced science for art.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Indeed what is the current dilemna in abstract painting?

vincenthawkins said...
"though this is a scientific observation " what is the current dilemma ?
Abstract painting is perceived as not being relevant/current and frequently in my view it isn't, because it is caught between 'rediscovering America or Holland'. To over simplify - Pollock or Mondrian. Reductionism appears to be ideologically led with a desire for containment and readablity and conversely the emotional, free expression appears lazy in enquiry and appears to be overly self indulgent to the point of ignoring context. It seems that once the style has been adopted the painting suffers. The solo is identifiable as rock, jazz, punk or techno but the quality of the sound isn't that great. I am as guilty of not succeeding in this as the next artist but feel it needs to be examined unless production of an abstract commodity is the goal.

I see the similarity in other areas as well as science where the methods and patterns of enquiry are repeated yet the expectation is that something new will arise out of the old habits.

I have yet to listen to all of Tony Godfrey's lecture on abstraction in Asia but a cursory examination showed his categories of pure and impure abstraction to connect with this debate. I hope to finish it shortly and will post my thoughts on his later.

Thank you Vincent for asking a very pertinent question. Please forgive my over-reduction here I am aware of the irony and feel it only highlights the problem! 

Does this resonate with you? Is this just a British perspective?

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Collapse of Chaos

"We have to find a way to combine content and context, reductionism and high level features, into a seamless whole." 

Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart in their book 'The Collapse of Chaos. Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World '  Although this is a scientific observation it struck me when reading the book that this summed up for me the current dilemna in abstract painting. Perhaps I will adopt is an artist's statement! Of course it raises a number of questions such as 'What are high level features?' and what in a painting would constitute a 'seamless whole'. The combining of content, context and reductionism has been happening for years in both science and art.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Michelle Grabner at Rocket

Phew not a landscape in sight: " My work consists of indentifying, indexing and transposing patterns. I also build elemental compositions that are foundational to the language of abstraction. I am concerned with enacting rudimental organisation, articulating notations and embracing repetition." Michelle Grabner.

I was struck by the connection of Michelle Grabner's work with Soulage's latest ( which are soon to be be seen at Bernard Jacobson)
and with my previous post about bringing sensibilities and process to basic forms such as the circle. The exhibition looks imposing as does the focus of such intricate mark making on this scale. In my experience the tondo is hard to make work and Michelle with overall blackness, pattern and target has unified the image and gives the surface a sense of reptilian skin. Considering the sombre similarities in Soulage's work and Grabner's, I was reminded of how colour and colour celebration is often perceived as frivolous. Are these works signs of the times and will black/grey become kitsch?

 Michelle Grabner's exhibition Flapjack is on at the excellent Rocket Gallery and runs until 19/6/10

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Pousette-Dart: Predominantly White Paintings at the Phillips Collection 1949-1954

Richard Pousette-Dart, 'White Cosmos', 1950-51. Oil and graphite on board, 36 x 48 inches.
One of the youngest of the Abstract Expressionists, Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992) has a major retrospective at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, USA from 5th June -12th September 2010.

We have seen in recent years, lesser critically known artists gravitate to a much higher position among the group, as we examine the legacy of Abstract Expressionists, who came to prominance in the post-WWII years, yet are viewed differently now, many years later. Consider how Rothko has become as significant if not more so than De Kooning and Pollock were at the time. You could also add Joan Mitchell and Ad Reinhardt who have had their status raised significantly in recent years.

Is Pousette-Dart another one that should be re-evaluated?
Using drawing predominantly, it falls into the same symbolist/surrealist motifs that are evident from many of the artists at the time, Gottlieb for one. These works also fall into a 'cosmic' aesthetic that leaves me cold. Yet Mark Tobey, who remains the most similar to Pousette -Dart's in approach, maintained a more objective style of painting. But we should remember that Surrealism was a large influence to many of these artists, and seeing Gorky's paintings at Tate Modern in London recently, it is easy to underestimate just how difficult a move to a more 'total' abstraction really was.

It is interesting to see the work of his daughter, Joanna Pousette-Dart, gaining prominance, she also uses drawing as a strong element in her work, there is still a trace of Miro...

'Untitled (Cañones #4)' (2007-2008). Acrylic on canvas over wood panels. 69 & 12 × 106 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Moti Hasson Gallery, New York.

Mind and Matter: Alternative Abstractions, 1940s to Now

Moma's exhibition presents a dozen international artists whose abstract work features idiosyncratic, organic forms, materials that appear to be malleable and pliable, craft-based techniques, and, in many cases, an engagement with gender and sexuality. Drawn from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, the installation features drawings, prints, books, and sculptures by artists including Louise Bourgeois, Gego, Mona Hatoum, Yayoi Kusama, Anna Maria Maiolino, and Zarina. New acquisitions on view for the first time include Louise Bourgeois’s drawing Femme Maison (1947), sculptures, prints, and drawings by Alina Szapocznikow, and drawings and prints by Atsuko Tanaka.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with MoMA’s publication of Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art (June 2010), and is made possible by the Modern Women’s Fund.

Atsuko Tanaka. Untitled. 1956. Watercolor and felt-tip pen on paper, 42 7/8 x 30 3/8"

Elfyn Lewis at Oriel Canfas

Elfyn Lewis the current winner of the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the Welsh National Eisteddfod is exhibiting his recent work at Oriel Canfas in Cardiff. However at the time of posting the website doesn't appear to have any notice that the show was happening.

Elfyn Lewis was born in 1969 in Porthmadog, North Wales. In 1987/88 he did a Foundation Course at Gwynedd College Bangor, and from 1988 to 1992 he studied Fine Art at University of Central Lancashire Preston. In 1996/98 he did his MA at University of Wales Institute Cardiff (MA). Early in his career he was associated with 'Super Fury Animals', 'Big Leaves' & 'Catatonia'. 

Elfyn Williams Bryn Awelon 18 x 16 acrylic on MDF

Monday, 7 June 2010

Kim Anno at Marcia Wood

Kim Anno, Chair of painting at California College of Arts, San Francisco has a show of her latest work at Marcia Woods Gallery . Kim also makes videos that show ink dropping into water in front of figurative images and she also makes books.

"I want to make the last abstract painting I can before it becomes narrative." – Kim Anno .  I suppose it depends on the definition of narrative as there is history in the making and this is a narrative. I have mutated her statement into  her statement into  - I want to make the last abstract painting I can before it becomes a painting,  or perhaps further - before it becomes a figurative painting.  She explains that  her goal is " leave something out... to allow the viewer to complete the experience of the work, to conjure the familiar while foiling narrative expectations.." 

Curiouser and curiouser. 

Thundercrack 2010 oil on wood 41 x 30 inches

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Louise Bourgeois dies aged 98

Louise Bourgeois, an artist who worked with all her heart, soul and mind has died aged 98. I have just heard Tracey Emin on the radio talking with love and admiration for her, they had become great friends. Tracey made a funny comparison with the life of female artist, as exemplified by Louise Bourgeois, as being orgasmic with the ability to come and come and come again but with men it tended to be a last big ejaculation in middle age. Portrait by Annie Leibovitz


 Louise Bourgeois would have liked this comparison as it was a sexually confident challenge made by a woman inspired by and for her.

Ms Bourgeois's advice to artists was not to be tempted by fame, money or celebrity or to be distracted by envy of other artists but to tell your own story and be true to that. I hope this reasserts your convictions. She was a brilliant inspiring woman.
The Puritan

Celebrity News: Dennis Hopper, actor, painter, art collector and counter-culture rebel dies, aged 74

The actor and painter who curated a show of his work at MOCA, Los Angeles, for this Summer, before he died, was a good supporter of the arts, especially painting in both Europe and the United States.

Zao Wou-ki is blue chip

"The abstract paintings by China-born, Paris-based Zao (1921-) sparked a frenzy of bidding each time they came on the block, often pushing prices to several times estimates at Christie’s International’s auction of modern and contemporary Asian art. Zao’s works fetched a combined HK$332.3 million ($43 million) during the marathon two-day sale of about 1,000 lots, part of a larger six-day series comprising 2,000 lots.

“Zao is a blue-chip artist,” said Kate Malin, Christie’s Hong Kong-based spokeswoman. “His works sell so well.”  

Courtesy of 

Image courtesy of