Du Toit writes: "Ultimately, though, the greatest value of art-historical anomalies like af Klint does not stem from their elusiveness, nor from their canon-defying dates ... It is that their work tends to make us abandon the generic lenses we habitually apply to art. To call af Klint abstract, for instance, is a category error, since she was independent of this discourse. Such perspective must be a good thing, even if it leaves us without much to say."
Kate Kellaway profiles painter Hilma Af Klint on the occasion of the exhibition Hilma af Klint Painting the Unseen at the Serpentine Gallery, London on view March 3 - May 15, 2016.
Kellaway writes: "Between 1906-1915, there followed 193 paintings – an astonishing outpouring – known as the Paintings for the Temple. Whatever one’s misgivings about the occult, [Af Klint] worked as if possessed – in the grip of what can only be described as inspiration. She explained that the pictures were painted 'through' her with 'force' – a divine dictation: 'I had no idea what they were supposed to depict… I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.' It is as if Af Klint has appeared out of nowhere – inconveniently for art historians. And the question she raises will not recede: was she a quirky outsider, or was she Europe’s first abstract painter, central to the history of abstract art?"
Amenoff comments: "Landscape, as an idea, has to do with longing. Paintings are alternate worlds – worlds unto themselves, manifested by each artist to satisfy a desire to fill a void. One summer I taught with Per Kirkeby at Skowhegan and he said that paintings are more real than actual experience. I thought about that, and took it to mean that painting is a distillation. A painting takes some aspect of the world — maybe an emotional state — isolates it, and makes it more potent. A painting is edited and condensed, so the flavors are sharper and brighter and stronger. It can be as magical as an Agnes Martin. Her work does that: isolates, distills, and creates a world. With an unsuccessful painting, or when parts of a painting are annoying, you are not able to believe in that world."
Micchelli writes: "Dispensing entirely with modernist emotional distancing, Gillespie’s most effective works go well beyond a mere horror of the flesh; in his own private netherworld, any act of intimacy — incarnated in his sensual, exacting brushstrokes — is a step into the abyss... Perhaps the most disturbing paintings in the show are the ones that relinquish multifarious imagery and instead present the artist in unadorned self-portraits...That these two grinning portraits ... were completed the year he took his own life lends them an almost unbearably melancholy edge. The disjunction between their apparently willful good cheer and the descent that followed would seem to embody Gillespie’s professed themes of 'insanity, chaos, weirdness,' compounded by compositions that feel deliberately ungainly, unvarnished and disconcertingly real."
David Carrier reviews the book Hilma af Klint: The Art of Seeing the Invisible, edited by Kurt Almqvist and Louise Belfrage (Ax:son Johnson Foundation, 2015).
Although finding certain aspects of the text wanting, Carrier concludes "Perhaps ... to understand af Klint we need to avoid a rigid distinction between spiritualist diagrams and abstract painting. After all, Renaissance altarpieces, which originally served sacred functions, nowadays are treated as works of art and so placed in museums."
Altoon Sultan blogs about the paintings of Hilma Af Klint.
Sultan writes: "The seeds of this work was in a spiritualist group that she and four women friends formed in the 1890s, called The Five, where they would practice automatic drawing. A spiritualist medium was one profession in which women excelled and were respected. And lest you scoff, dear readers, during that time it was a widespread practice; even such a pragmatic thinker as William James engaged in seances. There was a desire to reach the world beyond our merely physical one... ....the form, the color, the intricate drawing were passed to her from one of her spirit guides. She was a pure medium, changing nothing, working directly, through the years 1906-1908; from 1912-15 she had some discretion in her painting. Would she have ever made these marvelous paintings, so full of light and color, with such inventive form, if she hadn't felt she'd been guided?"
Barosh observes: "In Soul Bolt, Reeves’s immaterial figures present different degrees of psychological anguish and absurdity. The diminutive beings, cobbled together accumulations of painted debris, play out silent scenes of operatic grandeur or teeter on the edge, in parody of the Sublime. A new level of mystery is introduced when Reeves begins to pair the figures with photographed landscapes, placing the iconography of the dream world onto a representation of the real, replicating the inside-out feeling of terminal illness... Jennifer Wynne Reeves lived every moment of her life for art, sustained to the very end by creativity in its purest form, emotional honesty, and a striving for spiritual transcendence. Her work lives on reflecting her graceful humility and passionate spirit..."
Jenny Uglow reviews works by Eric Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, on view through August 31, 2015.
Uglow writes that Ravilious "has been called a Romantic Modernist, and his sensibility belongs to a particular English fascination with form, a line that includes the sculptors Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and the radical architects of the Architectural Review, as well as Paul Nash, John Piper and Graham Sutherland. Realist though they are, his paintings move towards dislocation, even abstraction, conjuring both past and present. They are full of unexpected angles, transformations, and juxtapositions. Doors open onto emptiness, the ordinary jostles the mythic; we meet chalk giants, shooting stars, unearthly, shimmering lights."
Bell begins: "Portrait painting requires stillness. What, for the subject, is it like to be still? As far as one can tell, the gentleman facing Richard Dadd in 1853 had nothing that he wished to project: his attire was dapper, his red locks kempt, but his eyes did no more than attend, uninflectedly staring back at those that analysed him. At the same time the painter, adjusting the tonal weights that composed the sitter’s head, arrived at a subtle asymmetry that fractured the psychological monotony, touching some faultline in his subject’s self-possession."
Bradley writes: "Start anywhere, go everywhere—that would seem to be the calling card of mid-twentieth-century painter Charles Burchfield’s body of work, which predominately captures scenes from nature and rural, country life as charged by drama, tension, and a freewheeling style that rockets straight out of humble en plein air painting’s crypt and into the stratosphere of vision."
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.