Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Whisper of Ambiguity

"I believe whispers carry farther than shouts."
Maud Gatewood

Although widely traveled from Austria, on a Fulbright Scholarship in her late twenty’s, to India, Africa and China with her longtime friend the Charlotte gallerist Dot Hodges, the American painter Maud Gatewood produced the majority of her work in the town of her birth Yanceyville, the county seat of Caswell County, one of North Carolina’s poorest county’s.

As a child in the 1940’s, Gatewood would often accompany her county sheriff father on his rounds including moonshine still busts. About which she says in the documentary Gatewood: Facing the White Canvas, "I had a more than average knowledge of the many foibles of human existence."

And as the county transformed its self from Bible-Belt to Sun-Belt through the urbanization and industrialization of its rural beginnings in the latter half of the 20th Century, Gatewood observed and depicted the inherent ambiguity within the process.

As the art historian Robert Hobbs notes the artist saying in his 1994 essay Maud Gatewood: Re-Visions "I think it's in the nature of the species to be a little evasive and covered. Ambiguity might be the heart of life as well as art… Creating a good painting is like walking a tightrope. You've got to make the thing work, but almost not work, to get that teetering sensation… What I'm trying to paint is relationships, formal relationships: light and color and forms. There might be messages, but I think a lot of times painters know less about what their painting says than anybody else.”

Gatewood is reported to have begun her artistic journey in the thrall of Abstract Expressionism but like the changing fortunes of Caswell County her work evolved to express this threshold of differing realities. As urban and rural sensibilities interacted so too did abstraction and realism within her work.  

“The important thing is to follow your own muse, but skeptically and carefully. If you don't question what you're doing, you're an absolute fool," Gatewood told the Independent Weekly.

And ultimately Gatewood trusted her work to suggest rather than proclaim "With a shout, it's boom, splash and it's gone. A whisper just drifts on and on," she claimed.

The exhibition Maud Gatewood: Selections is currently on show at Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum until the 29th of November.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

From Calligraphy to Abstract Expressionism

“The search for the form in one’s art is the ultimate mission statement for an artist.”
Chuang Che

The Chinese/American painter Chuang Che’s life has been a 5 decade journey to merge the traditional techniques of his Chinese heritage with his fascination of abstract expressionism gained from his visits to the West.

As New York’s David Findlay Jr’s gallery reports him as saying ““No art can mature by itself; it has to absorb nutrition from the rest of the world’s art. I’ve always had this ideal; to see a fusion of Chinese and Western painting.”

Born in Peking [Beijing] and growing up in Taiwan Che’s father was responsible for the safe keeping of the art treasures from the collections of Peking Palace Museum during the troubled times of the Sino/Japanese war and the Chinese civil war. He was also a noted calligrapher.

It was an early influence for Che about which he wrote in his essay Mountains and Rivers in My Heart “My father, a master of many calligraphic styles, always favored the running cursive style. I have watched him practicing his art since my childhood; the twisting and turning of his wrist, the changing spacing and cornering of his strokes, the varied spatial arrangements in sizes and angular relations of the his characters … all of these had become a kind of foundation training for my visual perception.”

In his early twenties Che attended the Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan Normal University and upon graduation he joined with fellow Taiwanese artists interested in modernizing Chinese art in the Fifth Moon Group.

A 1966 grant from John D. Rockefeller III Fund enable him to study contemporary international art in the United States at the time when abstract expressionism was at its peak.

Seven years later Che moved permanently to the United States and everything started to fall into place.

About which Che wrote in the summer of 1973 “Suddenly all the things that I have ever wanted to express before be­came possible… In one of the bedrooms I began to paint furiously. In the autumn of that same year, I had an exhibition in town… Where did all the paintings come from? I think they were the beneficial result of past failures, ev­idence that all the energy and time spent were well worthwhile.”

In 2005 Che reminisced further writing “Although the road leading from calligraphy into the realm of painting has been there for a long, long time, it took me over thirty years to hammer out a way to draw from their various elements, synthesize them and infuse them into a brand new art form. In painting, one’s ideas need to be fleshed out with his sensibility about time and space, just as pure reason, guiding one’s behavior, needs to be accompanied by human emotions, lest the person becomes a stiff and lifeless being.”

Currently the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is showing Effusive Vitality: CHUANG CHE Retrospective Exhibition until the 3rd of January next year.

Monday, September 28, 2015

An Old Technique for a Modern Picture

“So as long as it keeps evolving,
and you really feel like you’re growing through the work,
then it’s worth doing."
Robyn Stacey

With her earlier works, the Australian photographer Robyn Stacey produced intimate still life’s from the collections of historic houses with the feeling that their inhabitants would soon return to pick up where they had left off along with the modern aesthetic reproduction of rare specimens from botanical garden collections.

This interest in the historical has influenced her current body of work that juxtaposes exterior city scenes with the interiors of modern life through the application of the centuries old technique of the camera obscura.

Pioneered by the Chinese and the ancient Greeks more than a thousand years ago and extensively used by Renaissance artists, Stacey has used this pinhole technique to make hotel rooms of the 21st Century her darkroom.

The idea came to Stacey whilst she was artist in residence at Melbourne’s Sofitel on Collins hotel.
As she told the Sydney Morning Herald’s Katrina Lobley “''There was a fantastic sunrise over Melbourne. I jumped out of bed and thought, 'I should photograph this - it's just like a postcard'. Later, I realized I should make a camera obscura to bring the view into the room.”

Intrigued by the surreal vision of city traffic crawling across the walls and ceiling of the room, albeit upside down, Stacey soon realized that as ''Hotels only exist to service people” she needed to add people into the mix.

The result is a body of work in which the city almost becomes a thought bubble above the subjects head, an examination of the relationship of the individual to world in which they reside.

Not unlike her earlier historical still lifes about which the critic and curator Peter Timms wrote in his essay Playing a Double Game “As in the cinema (and these photographs are nothing if not cinematic) we are being invited to suspend our disbelief and imagine ourselves in another time, not for nostalgia’s sake, but for the opposite – to strip away sentiment and to see ourselves more clearly.”

Stacey’s current exhibition Cloudland is on show at the Museum of Brisbane until the 3rd of April next year.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Exploring Change through the Zeitgeist of the High Street

“I see lots of parallels between fashion and religious sects.”
Anj Smith

In a manner reminiscent of the gothic fantasy genre most associated with the work of the American film director Tim Burton, London based painter Anj Smith explores in her highly detailed small paintings the dark side of life in general and fashion in particular.

As she told the Independent on Sunday about her 2004 work Opus Dei Lite (see above) “Opus Dei Lite came about when I saw that the Weight Watchers breakfast was identical to the Opus Dei cult breakfast – dry rusks. I really like dark stuff like that.”

Nine years later, Smith, talking to the Huffington Post about her New York exhibition The Flowering of Phantoms explained the continuing motivation for her work stating “Very loosely speaking, the flowering 'phantoms' of the show's title relate to the way that language operates in a relentless process of evolution, with new meanings constantly springing from the death throes of their predecessors. The art historical context of painting now is dragged into this as much as any other language (a skull in a Dutch Golden age still-life now seems to signify McQueen rather than mortality. Not even that, thanks to the market rip-offs, perhaps the old sign for death has now just emptied out to solely indicate genericism). To me this process appears as a perfect reflection a current metaphysical state, where the ground underfoot feels marshy, with no stable structures are around to help us define our identity, or to quantify things.

About her choice of medium, the Goldsmiths’ trained artist said “In terms of making an image, the process of painting is an odd choice in the context of our sleek technology -- it's clumsy, awkward and it compromises the image, and takes months! But for me, that's where its profundity lies. There is something gratuitous about it, pointless even, and yet painting's seductive power remains unabated -- which explains its survival. For these reasons, I think it brilliantly reflects a contemporary headspace now, and how it feels to negotiate basic aspects of existence now.

With influences that range from Persian miniature painting via the Dutch Golden Age to high fashion Smith’s work integrates a high art aesthetic into the fashion of the high street.

As she told Forbes Magazine’s Grace Banks “When I look at the zeitgeist now I see that people are looking for authenticity. Fashion is not a frivolous or trivial thing, but actually, we are wearing the values of our time and they say a lot about how we construct our identity and a lot about our time. There’s a lot of really vacuous comment about fashion that doesn’t interest me but I will always be interested in the concept of change and transformation that it offers.

Smith’s current exhibition Phosphor on the Palms is currently on show at London’s Hauser & Wirth gallery until the 21st of November.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Abstracting the English Countryside

I like to think that my paintings have meaning
and that meaning goes beyond being just pictures of things.” 
Lewis Noble

The London born artist Lewis Noble has been indulging himself in the very British pastime of capturing the English countryside, although it is the experience of it rather than its depiction that informs his landscapes.

As he told the Ainscough Contemporary Art gallery “Painting near my home and studio in the Peak District I have continuous exposure to the landscape that surrounds me. A great deal of my recent work has been spent outside painting directly from the landscape. I want to make paintings that are in immediate response to the sky, the land, and importantly, the transitions between them.

Unavoidably influenced by John Constable and JMW Turner, Noble’s works concentrate on the inherent drama therein ignoring the narrative.

An approach to his work that he explained in an interview about his yearlong residency at Derbyshire’s Chatsworth House “As a landscape painter I am always trying to find ways to include the human element in my work. The landscape around us is all a product of human intervention. English landscape is managed by people and therefore has a human quality. I tend not to include people in my work as I like the idea of the person standing in front of the painting being the only person in the landscape. If there is someone else there they intrude on the private experience. I want the paintings to stand in for the experience of being in the actual landscape. Once there is someone there, there is a narrative whether it’s intended or not. I think it’s a little the same with buildings. Once you start being really specific about an object especially one as well-known as Chatsworth House you start telling stories which isn’t where I want to be.

And with work that borders on abstract expressionism, Noble’s concern is about the viewer’s relationship with his landscapes.

As he says “I think that there are different relationships that paintings go through. I have a very personal relationship with them while they are in the studio. This is all about change and motion. The painting is never the same to look at from one day to next. It’s like going on a journey where you know the general direction but you never know the final destination until you get there. Sometimes it can be struggle and other times an easy path, but there’s no way of knowing which it will be at the outset. When a painting is finished it usually goes off to the gallery so I don’t tend to spend a lot of time with it in a completed state. It’s only when I next see it hanging in the gallery that I can be more objective about it and start to think about it as a finished painting. I think the relationship that a painting’s eventual owner has with it is very different to my own as they get to live with it for years. I like to think they have a positive effect on the lives of the people that own them.”

Noble’s current exhibition of New Paintings is on show at Derby’s Tarpey Gallery until the 31st of October.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chinese Tradition Meets Western Pop

I want to create an engaging dialogue between traditional Eastern craft
and a Western pop aesthetic

Jacky Tsai

Born in Shanghai the Chinese collage artist come fashion designer Jacky Tsai came to the United Kingdom to study at London’s Central St Martins College of Art and Design and stayed. As a consequence of this life style choice, since 2006, Tsai has been creating a body of work that combines traditional Chinese crafts, skills and folklore with Western pop imagery.

As he explained to Hyperbeast’s Nate Bodansky last year “My cultural influences affect my art direction significantly. Though I’ve been living in London for 8 years, I still experience the cultural difference every day. I think subconsciously that’s a big part of the reason why I’m always doing the “East meets West” art to merge both my backgrounds together.

Tsai came to the notice of London art scene in 2008 with his floral skull motif design for the Alexander McQueen fashion label.

About which he told Wall Street International “Many Chinese people are afraid of skulls, and to a certain extent so am I, but the skull image has become trendy in the Western world, especially in fashion, and I was interested in this difference in perception in the East and the West. I wanted to see if I could change the attitude in the East towards the skull, so I tried to represent it in a beautiful way by using images of nature such as flowers, butterflies and birds to transform this previously ‘scary’ image. I wanted people to see the beauty in decay while commenting on the proximity of life and death.”

It is this ability to juxtaposition perceptions, East and West, fashion and fine art, which enables Tsai stand with a foot in both camps.

As he has said “It’s almost the same for me as I treat fashion items as part of my art creations, the only difference is that art is a kind of self-expression, where I only listen to my own voice.”

And it’s a voice that decrees “Artists from the 1960s who experienced the Cultural Revolution have dominated the Chinese art market [for] many years. The new generation needs to develop the motifs and aesthetics in their art, rather than follow the old trends… I appreciate all the masterpieces that Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol did, but too many artists try to imitate the style in the last 40 years or so. Now I feel it’s the time to make my statement of what I feel is a new Pop Art language in 2014 and develop this in my own way – a hybrid style of western Pop Art and Chinese traditional craft.

And Tsai’s reverence for his forebear’s historic skills and tradition combined with the desire to keep them alive and relevant is a further driver for his art.

As he says “The complicated manufacturing process and the high production costs resulted in very high prices. Traditionally only the royal family or wealthy businessmen could afford them. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the vast working class people had little demand for such luxuries. Young people now are reluctant to learn the skills of lacquer-carving, and many elders in the business have passed away. Nowadays, there are only about twenty trained craftsmen left in China who have this skill. This ancient craft is on the brink of extinction.”

Tsai’s current Self-Titled exhibition is on show at London’s The Fine Art Society until the 2nd of October.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What a Difference a War Makes

“The most important thing for me is to be honest with my paintings.”

Mohannad Orabi

As part of its entry strategy into the Damascus art market in 2007 the Ayyam Gallery conducted an open call for emerging Syrian artists to join an in house program that included representation. From the 150 entries ten were selected and amongst that ten was the figurative painter Mohannad Orabi.

An alumni of Damascus’ Faculty of Fine Arts from the class of the year 2000, Orabi was painting stylized characters that he had determined were self-portraits.

As he told the Canvas Supplement “Sometimes she turns out to be feminine, sometimes masculine, sometimes childlike. They don’t look like me physically, sure, but their mood is mine.” 

The birth of his daughter in 2011 coincided with the start of the Syrian civil war, events that were the catalyst for a major shift in his painting as well as his life.

As he told Dubai’s English language newspaper, The National “It was the year that everything changed. Suddenly we were surrounded by a lot of violence and blood. We felt ­sadness, stress, fear, disappointment and confusion. We were really worried about the future and no longer felt safe in the present. When I looked at my daughter and heard the sound of war outside, the characters in my paintings were not my story ­anymore but those of the people around me.”

Orabi moved to Cairo and two years later to Dubai where he has a residence permit. “The situation was so bad in Syria I couldn’t stay any longer. It was so dangerous. And all I want to do is raise my child in a good, safe environment.
Displaced from his homeland, Orabi relies on social media to keep in contact with family and friends with the images in his work becoming symbolic of their profile pictures.

As he explains “I began to build up a relationship between myself and the profile pictures of other people on Facebook. It wasn’t the real person but their image that showed me how they were feeling.”

A point Orabi elaborates about saying “I haven’t always made political art and maybe in the future I can paint about being happy. But right now, all my passions are towards Syria simply because I’ve been directly affected by what has happened there. It’s irrelevant to think about anything else – commenting on this terrible situation is what I should be doing. People glance at headlines and don’t take them in. But maybe if they see an image and it really ­affects them ...”

Orabi’s current exhibition Mu'allaqat is on show at the Ayyam Gallery in Beirut until the 16th of July.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Power of Graffiti III

“I am the opposite of all the anxiety that I present in my work.
Marchal Mithouard

The Sorbonne trained French artist Marchal Mithouard, who is arguably better known by his street tag name of Shaka, has for the last 16 years been showing his work in galleries although when time permits the 40 year old likes to return to the freedom of his youth.

As he told the Underground Paris project’s Fernanda Hinke “My canvases are big paintings in a graffiti style, but is not about graffiti.  You can make as many graffiti canvases for a gallery as you want, but it will never be graffiti. Graffiti is on a wall, on the street, and illegal. If I go to streets, I want to have the feeling of what graffiti is. To be honest, I don’t really appreciate doing legal walls on the streets, you have a lot of photographers behind you, there’s no freedom. If I have time, I like to go out in the streets to make interventions during the night, alone or with my crew, DKP, in the real way that graffiti is about.”

Mithouard grew up in suburban Paris and started decorating the streets as a teenager.

“I started to do oil painting when I was nine years old. When I came to graffiti, I already had an oeuvre of canvases at home. By the time I was eighteen, my friends and I were students and we did not want to stay at home or paint in a studio. We were looking for fun and graffiti was a way of combining both. Graffiti was really expressive for me. I was not being judged, I was free, I had a new name, I was excited, with good feelings and vibrations. That’s how I discovered a new way to paint… When I started to do graffiti it was just for fun; later, I realized how I could mix graffiti and more traditional painting. Nowadays, my work is a result of all these experiences. I like to mix all of this, in fact it’s the way hip hop exists, mixing things to make music.  I work in the same way on canvas, making sculptures, and doing graffiti,” he explained.

Mithouard claims to be the antithesis of the anger and violence inherent in his work through which he attempts to provoke a reaction to the negative aspects of the human condition.

As he has said “I am a very calm person, except when I am in traffic. I have a group of friends since my childhood, my relationship with my family is very positive… I have sixteen personages, [in my paintings] they are all my family and friends. Behind the violence and my energetic color palette, there is a message of sensibility. It’s all about human expression, the movement of their bodies representing the struggle for individuality in social power politics. I like to compare my paintings with how governments work. With the end of the American dynasty for example. One personage will fall for sure, but because of its selfishness and violence, it will push others to fall down with it. I want to provoke a reflection about this selfishness in human behavior.

Mithouard’s current exhibition Onde de Choc (Shockwave) is on show at New York’s gallery nine5 until the 25th of October.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Questioning the Landscape Zeitgeist

“Every Landscape is affected by the hand of man.”
Mark Dorf

Now that the scientific method has transplaced religion as the dominant interpreter of the world the conceptual artist Mark Dorf is using photography and digital imaging to explore its relevance and ultimately question its accuracy.

As he told the New Yorker Magazine “The human race is constantly recording data and transforming elements of our physical surroundings into abstracted and non-physical calculations in order to gain an understanding of the world,”  

The Brooklyn based artist grew up immersed in both the visual and the academic worlds and although becoming a photographer the rigor of math and physics has colored that pursuit.
“Growing up, I had a mixture of influences. My grandfather was a photographer here in New York City, and my grandmother was a painter. But then my father and his sister both studied math and science through university, so when I was young, I was pushed to study hard in my science and math classes. Somehow, I ended up getting my BFA in photography, but, as is true of every artist, I am highly influenced by my surroundings, and for a long time my surroundings were of the academic variety. If I hadn’t studied photography, I surely would have gotten a degree in physics or math. I have always loved those fields,” Dorf explained to the Orion Magazine.”

From the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Fjords of Iceland, Dorf has traveled far and wide to obtain his primary source information from the natural world upon which he then juxtaposes digitally created geometric forms.

Which he explains as “By placing these forms in the landscape, I am also creating an interruption of the landscape—one that could mirror, in metaphor, the ways that our built landscapes grow via highly calculated decision-making. I am also interested in the ways that we define primary experience. How do we today examine and experience the natural world when our day-to-day lives are so saturated with digital stimulation? At any moment we can search the web for a photograph of the Grand Canyon and find sweeping, digitally enhanced photographs that create some sort of representation of the place. But how do those digital experiences affect the ways we see and observe our surroundings?”

And to complicate matters Dorf is very aware of his chosen medium’s limitations.

As he told the In the In-Between website’s Gregory Jones “The photograph has definitely been used as form of evidence, fact, and truth – but in practice, the photograph has never been an accurate source of non-fiction. There are always choices being made on the image-makers side that reflects his or her own bias – what is included? More importantly what does the photographer exclude to create his or her own altered reflection of truth? In the context of the internet and social media this becomes a very interesting subject. In the most obvious sense, these portals allow for us to use digital photographs and video as a means of curating our own appearance to a larger community. With things like Facebook you have the ability to show or remove every photograph that is uploaded. If this person looks bad in a specific photograph, they will of course remove it and leave only the ones that best reflect what they see as an accurate representation of themselves. Whether or not this is truly accurate is another story – it’s more about what that specific person wants to be or become. In a sense the digital image then gives you the ultimate ability to create your own fiction.

It is through Dorf’s embrace of these limitations and his through his own endeavors that he attempts to question the prevailing zeitgeist.

As he has said “In the end, I suppose, I am interested in the ways math and science fail to represent reality.

Dorf’s current exhibition Emergence is in show at New York’s Postmasters Gallery until the 17th of October.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

An Abstraction of West Coast Style

“I’m drawn to the use of hard-edged elements
because of the contrasts they create within a painting.
Alexander Couwenberg

The Los Angeles based hard edge abstractionist painter Alexander Couwenberg’s hand is involved in all aspects of the production of his work. From employing his carpentry skills to make his own stretchers to the varnishing of the finished painting he uses this DIY approach for his representations of the west coast American life style.

As he told Geoform’s Julie Karabenick “I was born and raised in Southern California. My paintings are personal investigations and interpretations of the Southern California aesthetic, including mid-century design, graphics and architecture, hot rods and car culture, surfing and skateboarding, music, fashion, and the landscapes of metropolitan Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. I come from a Dutch-Indonesian family and was exposed to the art and craft of those cultures from an early age. I spent my time at skateboard parks, at the beach surfing, and listening to punk rock music in between. The polished finish of surfboards, the multiple layers of varnish on a custom car, the fine lines and pin striping associated with their graphics all influenced me. Becoming an artist came naturally as I was already a product of the DIY (Do It Yourself) approach to things—the main idea of punk rock philosophy.”

Over the years since the time he spent at California’s Claremont Graduate School, Couwenberg has developed a more painterly approach to his work.

“I used to begin my work with precise drawings that described in great detail the direction a painting would take and how it would work itself out. Over the years, I felt my paintings began to take on a “machined” quality, and I began to miss the organic process usually involved with creativity. Gradually, I began to rely less on drawings and notes and more on intuition. I’ve come to appreciate the nuances of the painting process. I’m doing more visual editing—making decisions and changes as the paint dries. I’ve learned to listen to what the painting is saying and pay attention to when it tells me that it’s finished… As I work more intuitively and without preparatory drawings, more random or unexpected elements occur —visible brushstrokes, transparencies, distress marks, happy accidents. Working in this more painterly style, I feel it necessary to create a balance by incorporating elements that I have more control over. This is where the hard edge comes in. It delineates areas within the painting and creates a balance between control and the random.” he says.

A point not missed by the art critic David M Roth who noted in 2013 “By recasting the orthodoxies of geometric abstraction and combining them with the tropes of SoCal car/surf culture, Couwenberg evokes the sensation of living in a region where exhaust fumes, sensory overload and subliminal connectivity have long been facts of life. In so doing, he pushes a decidedly retro sensibility into the digital era.”

Couwenberg’s current exhibition Revisited is on show at St Louis’ Bruno David Gallery until the 10th of October.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Changing Space of the Landscape

I categorize my paintings as landscapes,
although hardly of the picturesque tradition.” 
Steven Baris

For the American abstract painter Steven Baris the changing space between the suburbs and countryside has captured his fascination. Exurbia has changed from a rural retreat for the wealthy to the distribution centers that underpin the consumer society of the twenty and twenty first centuries.

As he explained to Culture Confidential’s Marjorie LantaincusDistribution centers… They are also referred to as “logistics centers,” or my favorite, “fulfillment centers.” You probably drive by them all the time; they are those low-lying, often incredibly wide, boxy buildings alongside the highway ringed with scads of loading docks. You see those big 18-wheelers buzzing in and out of them like bees servicing a hive.”

It was a phenomenon Baris became aware of as an art student traveling from the rural countryside of his youth to Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art in the mid 1980’s.

As he old TiltedArc.comI have always been sensitive to my spatial surround. I grew up on various American Indian reservations out West (my father worked for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs) where I lived in relatively unpopulated environments from lush forests to the Great Plains. Moving to the Northeast to attend graduate school, my spatial antennae afforded me a unique perspective on radically different kinds of spaces. Over time I became fascinated by the increasingly built-up regions that lay beyond the urban centers and their contiguous suburbs (often referred to as exurbia). I have witnessed the utter transformation of what was once primarily a world of small towns and countryside into one of ever expanding networks of expressways, corporate centers and big box distribution centers. My work is informed, directly or indirectly, by these highly disorienting places. What I see are entirely new kinds of landscapes–highly engineered and intensely geometricized.”

A landscape that lent itself to a hard edged geometric representation even more visually austere than the usual urban landscape.

As he explains “Houses, office buildings and stores all privilege one of their outer walls as a discernable fa├žade meant to face you as you approach. With most of the distribution centers that I’ve observed it’s impossible to say which wall is supposed to be the front and which is a side or the back. All that matters is where the loading docks are.

An orientation that Baris explained further to “Unlike older spaces that were based on orientation, be it sacred spaces, be it a world where you knew that Jerusalem was over there, or Mecca or some skyscraper in a major city, you always knew where you were planted. Whereas the world I’m looking at is out and beyond all that, there is no orientation, it’s not about orientation. That’s the whole point. So, is this an OK world? Or if not, I don’t know. But there’s hard evidence to me by the fact of how disoriented I am. But at the same time I’m drawn to it like moth to a flame. But, it’s the modern world, look at the internet, there’s no place anymore, it’s a network logic.”

Baris’ current exhibition The Smoothest of All Possible Space is on show at Philadelphia’s Pentimenti Gallery until the 17th of October.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Outside Looking In

"I'm quite into the idea that there's more to a painting than what you are looking at”
Hurvin Anderson

As the youngest of eight children and the only one to be born in England after his Jamaican parents immigrated in the 1960’s, Hurvin Anderson portrays the world from the view point of an outsider.

As he told Sotheby’s Alex Branczik “The first time I went to Jamaica, I was fourteen. My elder siblings all came from there and I got to know the island through them. I wasn’t born there, so I didn’t actually fit in. I feel more British than Jamaican at times and vice versa. My painting is a dialogue between these two territories - trying to get these two places to meet.

The Observer Newspaper’s Alex Taylor wrote about Anderson’s work sayingAs paintings go, they are more emblems than they are descriptions, embedded in flat, semi-abstract space.

An observation that Anderson elaborated about in the video made for his 2013 exhibition Reporting Back.

“I’m not a writer, you know, I felt as though painting was the way I could actually discuss things, question the world around me. It was my way of kind of looking at things. I do see a lot of my work as observation. OK, I do play with color and form in a way, but I do also think, I do also feel it is what’s in front of you when you take things apart. Yes, I’m constructing things, but I’m kinda putting things back together as to what is actually happening in a way.”

From his paintings of barber shops in his Peter’s Series, which examine the Afro-Caribbean community of his youth in the British city of Birmingham, to his Welcome Series inspired by his visit to Trinidad in 2002 and his fascination with the decorative security grills, Anderson explores the shifting notions of cultural identity.

As the director of the Ikon Gallery, Jonathan Watkins, wrote in the forward to Anderson’s Reporting Back exhibition “the scenes Anderson depicts are sites of leisure where the mind is usually free to wander. He talks of being in one place “but actually thinking about another”, not as a problem necessarily but as a fact of his life.”

His latest exhibition Hurvin Anderson: Backdrop is currently on show at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis until the 27th of December.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Journey is the Destination

“Painting and working in the studio has been the greatest source of inspiration.”
Ruth Pastine

Unlike most artists whose desire is to gravitate to New York the color field abstract artist Ruth Pastine moved from the center of the art world to the rural city of Ojai in Southern California to advance her work.

As she told My Art Space blog’s Brian Sherwin “Painting is my life and the art world is the world I live in. I grew up and lived in New York until just prior to September 11th, when I moved to Southern California. I got to the point where I wanted to work from a much more private place outside the hum of the market place, and enter the art world when I wanted, not because I was living in the midst of it. This has been important to the work, as the paintings are hard won, and my process is rigorous. I don’t like being sidetracked from my focus.”

A focus that is dedicated to painting as end in itself. “The work is rooted in the perceptual experience of color, light and temperature,” she says.

Growing up in New York the city’s famed art institutions were Pastine’s “back yard.”  As she has explained “My mother was educated in art and art history and we went to museums and galleries as part of our daily lives.”

Such was her immersion into and fascination with this world that becoming an artist was inevitable.
As she told the Ventura County Star “From my first year of high school I knew I was an artist. I already knew Claude Monet, then when I learned about impressionism and studied art history, it all fit[ted] together. Once I began to see there was information that was unessential, I started to eliminate it slowly. By the second or third year of college, I was heading towards my mature work now. It wasn’t until my master’s that I saw that composition or any delineation of geometry was a distraction from the experience of painting. You start with a system, and it’s through painting itself that something happens.”

An integral part of Pastine’s system is to work on a series of paintings, all at the same time, which in turn inspires her next body of work.

Which she explains as “I never know from one series to the next what will evolve as the successive series until I’m in the thick of it. As I work towards the completing of a group of paintings, there is always some recognition of a point of departure which defines the next series of paintings. This is discovered, I never know in advance. One series always influences and informs the next series of paintings. Usually a pivotal painting is the threshold and door to a new group of paintings. This painting is key and mercurial in that sense, as it’s able to define the closure of one body of work and offer a potential gateway to a future series. Every painting is connected in the series and there is a greater continuum that links series to series and the work as a whole. Working serially advances the work within such close parameters, and offers me great insight into that which is unknown.”

Her current exhibition Ruth Pastine: The Inevitability of Truth is on show at Los AngelesEdward Cella Art+Architecture until the 17th of October.