Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco blogs about both the "beauty of small paintings," and the particular problems and rewards of working on an intimate scale.
Del Turco writes: "I find that small works are particularly successful when they depict a large space, still life or a figure, rather than something 'life size,' ... a small work is never 'a reduced version' of a large work, the painting process is intrinsically different... Small format is extremely difficult and takes a long time. Little paintings draw the viewer very close and need absolute perfection to pass such a close scrutiny. Small compositional shifts might turn into disasters and 'touch,' the way paint is deposed on the surface, is paramount. Paint doesn't necessarily need to be manipulated with small and controlled strokes, on the contrary it is often a free brushwork that makes these paintings stunning and keeps them clear of the boundaries with miniature."
Harris writes: "Kehoe knows how to make a simple view very dynamic. Each head becomes a landscape, light contrasting dark and vibrant colors juxtaposed with muted hues to carve out the portrait. It’s easy to distinguish features by leaning on tonal contrast (just add a bit more black), so that’s why I am particularly enthralled with her use of hue. She pairs warm with cool colors, the bright with dull, and the light with dim… Each stroke counts. Each blot stands on its own and plays a part. Each is bold and carries with it the artist’s intent: that strength translates into the forms of the image."
Daniel Maidman visits the studio of painter Janice Nowinski on the occasion of the exhibition Janice Nowinski: Recent Paintings at John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York, on view from October 10 - November 3, 2013.
Maidman writes: "Nowinski works, at the ground level, moment by moment, through artistic intuition. She works on her paintings forever: adjusting, wiping out, overpainting, pausing, reflecting, stopping for long periods, returning and revising. She feels her way through the dark until the illumination strikes her, and she finds that she has arrived at last." He concludes, noting that Nowinski "confronts not only the 20th century, but the 19th and all the centuries before; she embraces both her human and her cultural inheritance. She acknowledges not only the necessity, but the failure of the painted figure. In recognizing both, she contributes to the rehabilitation of the things we know we need. She helps to strain out old poisons and discover a language of trustworthy images."
Seed writes: "Upon approaching, [Memling's] 'Christ Blessing,' I was struck by its immense emotional subtlety. The face of Christ has a naturalistic softness that transmits a sense of knowing sadness: It moved and impressed me. But then I lowered my eyes and took in a detail that made the work come even more completely alive: Christ's hand rests on the edge of the frame in a virtuoso display of illusionistic oil painting. The image of the hand took really got to me: It was an epiphany that alerted me not only to the genius of Memling but also to the 'moment' that this show represents. A few short decades before Leonardo completed the, 'Mona Lisa,' it is clear that his artistic predecessors in the north were doing the hard work that cleared the way for the astonishing presence of his art. The power of that subtle hand -- resting on the edge between illusion and reality -- strikes me as every bit as brilliant and memorable as the, 'Mona Lisa,' smile. It breaches the barriers between Memling's world and ours and demolishes time."
Toorop’s painting Self-Portrait with Hat and Voile "is emblematic of her later 'realistic' style. Features that help to define a painting’s realistic appearance are usually accurately rendered shadows, light, textures and colors. We believe the sitter’s physicality and presence. We relate in a similar fashion to the painted semblance as we would to the actual person. Her face is roughly life-sized, looking out at us with heavy eyes, but if it wasn’t for the veil, her painting would be far more ordinary. There is an incredible gestural richness and variety in the veil’s make-up. Toward the edges of the veil, individual strokes adopt the (impressionistic) qualities of moving water or swaying grass. Her face, on the other hand, is treated much more lightly. The veil is transparent here. It feels airy, porous and light... By painting the veil in the way she did, Toorop elegantly merges two opposing notions of representation. And by doing so, she realizes a crucial aspect of painting: to make something ordinary appear in a new light."
Justin E. H. Smith reviews the exhibition Tamara de Lempicka at the Pinacotheque de Paris, on view through September 8, 2013.
Smiths writes that Lempicka's "paintings seem to have done more to concretize the figure of the modern woman to which... later pop stars would work so hard to fit themselves, the figure that always seems so modern and insolite, while remaining eternally rooted in a mythical 1925 Paris, in the moment when Tamara de Lempicka (who had fled St. Petersburg in 1917) painted it in cool neo-cubist blues: la garçonne, the female boy, artificial and contrived even grammatically, always a surprise, always as if new, even when its long chain of iterations is revealed."
S. Patkin reviews the exhibition Francesco Clemente: Portraits of the 80s at Thomas Ammann Fine Art Gallery, Zurich, on view through September 27, 2013.
Patkin writes: "Many have read Clemente’s work during this period as reacting against the conceptual and minimal art of the 1970s, and credit Clemente as being among one of the most recognized artists involved with revitalizing figurative painting, as well as reintroducing emotional heft to painting and drawing, particularly through his signature focus on the human form and special interest in identity and sexuality. Clemente himself has resisted specific labels, however, and his work seems to speak less to a conceptual rupture or defined statement, than to a potent fusion of a variety of influences... Combining a unique enthusiasm for non-Western symbols and mythology, while steeping himself in studies of Romanticism and the Italian Renaissance, Clemente’s world is one of permeable boundaries – as vivid as it is dreamlike."
Jackie Wullschlager highlights the exhibition Unseen Lowry at The Lowry, Manchester, UK, on view through September 29, 2013.
Wullschlager writes that the show consists of "100 drawings, paintings and oil sketches found at his home after his death in 1976, and displayed for the first time. A particular focus is on his figure drawings and seascapes featuring lonely rocks or monuments in dark waters... alongside are portrait heads that could illustrate D.H. Lawrence or Jane Eyre: the leathery, resilient 'Head of an Old Man with a Neck Tie,' the passive, unemployed 'Seated Man in Flat Cap with Knees Raised': it is a panorama of changing British society, filtered through Lowry’s private sensibility."
Steve Roden blogs about the "visionary portraits" of Hans Richter, which can be seen in the exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on view through September 2, 2013.
Roden writes: "these look quite a bit like german expressionist portraits, but they somehow feel stranger, less guided. at first glance, they seemed connected to the paintings of composer/painter arnold schoenberg. the wall text for the visionary portraits (i believe that the word 'visionary' was richter's), reveals that richter painted these works at twilight - a time when colors were 'indistinguishable', where the light and atmosphere would put him into 'a sort of auto-hypnotic trance... thus the picture took shape before the inner, rather than the outer, eye.' i have to say this whole story kind of floored me - and of course, i was excited to see this idea of limited vision or limiting one's technical facilities as a huge precedent in finding ways to explore a more creative way of articulation... and in richter's case it seemed to be less looking and more groping."
Zachary Keeting and Christopher Joy visit the studio of painter Matthew Miller. A new painting by Miller is on view at Pocket Utopia, New York through August 29, 2013.
Asked about the black backgrounds in his portraits, Miller comments that "it's similar to a green screen... it could be anything, it's this dense potential... this totally vacant, imaginitive space." He continues: "I want to employ illusionism; I don't want to participate in it necessarily. I want to use it as a feature of my painting... I see them as paintings rather than portraits. They're like images of portraits."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.