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."
James Kalm visits an exhibition of works by Mara Held, Margrit Lewczuk and Meg Lipke at David Findlay Jr. Gallery, New York, on view through May 9, 2015.
Kalm notes that these three painters have "achieved unique visions through independent approaches, to not just formal issues like color, line and shape, but who've also experimented with unusual materials and techniques. Despite their differences or similarities, they nonetheless represent a broad cross section of contemporary organic abstraction."
Addison Parks reprises his 1982 article Into Bess: The Paintings of Forrest Bess.
Parks writes: "The space of the Bess image moves like a lawless dream. This kind of space is called conceptual because it can be flat, deep, massive, upside-down, bird's-eye, and backwards all at the same time. It answers to form and not to gravity. It is a look through the looking glass into a world that was more vast and exciting than that sleeping world Bess found around him. From these open plains he gave pasture to images which filtered up into his eyelids. If his paintings were to him a key to his infinite and primordial unconscious, they are keyholes for us, views into the interior where few go.
Bess did not let his paintings paint themselves, letting the unconscious flow ally with paint, hand, and eye to give color and shape to whatever whispered in his ear. Instead, he let his inspirations paint his paintings for him, giving complete control over to the prescriptions of his unconscious. He had no choice, and given the alternatives, they were at least the one thing he could trust. He could feel sure of something that burned such a strong impression in his imagination. Bess had an inspiration, and he didn't have to fret about it. It was there, he saw it, and he painted it, much in the same way a still life or landscape painter might attempt to be true to nature. The difference is that these were private images, internal and original."
Addison Parks writes about the work of Margrit Lewczuk. Lewczuk's show Me,We, curated by Suzy Spence is on view at The Gallery @1GAP, Brooklyn through April 23, 2015.
Parks writes: "Lewczuk paints monuments. To some being. To some Beingness. Like some extraterrestrial landing strip, like crop circles from space, with deafening sound, she reaches out. Encircling us. Embracing us. Hypnotizing us. Matisse as Svengali. Brancusi as painter. We find ourselves at her gate. Let go and she takes us in. The great mother. The Buddha. The unanswerable. The nothingness."
Andrianna Campbell reviews an exhibition of works by Bill Lynch (1960-2013), curated by Verne Dawson at White Columns, New York, on view through October 25, 2014.
Campbell writes: "A lambent quality suffuses Bill Lynch’s mostly untitled and undated paintings on scavenged plywood, executed during the last thirty years of his life. A furtive incandescence hovers inside them. Euphorically ambiguous, in the same breath they celebrate Chinese Ming dynasty flower-and-bird compositions, which hold complex symbolization and interior resonance, and Mesoa-American shamanistic burial textiles. In the former case, heavy impasto eclipses the lyricism that we associate with the genre, likening them more to the Chinese modernist tradition of Zhao Shaoang, whom Lynch admired. Floral and vegetal forms hang next to spiderwebs; lurking monkeys, twisted trees, and blue-and-white porcelain flirt with both aesthetics and affliction... his perspective is tremendously invigorating and unusual. In his renditions, the rectilinear surface becomes a place of close-looking at paint, at the uncompleted stroke, and of considering spiritual meaning in a contemporary world."
Matthew Collings conducts a fictional "interview" with painter Hilma Af Klint.
Colling's Af Klint notes: "if you’re a painter you spend a lot of time getting things right, getting forms to be efficient so that whatever you’re hoping to get across can have a chance of being coherent, of actually communicating to someone. You’re basically narrowing down to a very visual priority.... The trouble is, no one has yet taken the trouble to see my paintings in this ‘seeing-through’ way... But when [biographical/historical] narrative is the only focus of the art experience, the experience of painting – this discipline with its tangible realities, its materiality, its forms and colours – then there is a lack of understanding of what the experience is really about, and if you don’t understand that then you’re not really having the experience, you’re going through the motions only."
Boyd writes: " ...whether we understand the symbols or not, they tell us one very important thing–Bess was no formalist. He isn’t trying to arrange colors and shapes in an interesting, aesthetically pleasing way. I see his work as a compulsion, a need to get what he was seeing in his mind down on canvas... This kind of painting–symbolic, Jungian, mythic–was almost a movement in the days before Abstract Expressionism rose. Artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko dabbled in this sort of primitive surrealist symbology. Think of Pollock’s Male and Female (1942) or The She Wolf (1943), for example. It’s hard to say that Bess was a part of that tradition since he was so isolated, but the works have a lot of similarities. Pollock and Rothko moved on. For Bess, contending with his visions was a life-long pursuit."
The subject of a rare retrospective exhibitinon at the Moderna Museet, Hilma Af Klint was a pioneering abstract painter and one of the most enigmatic artists of the 20th century.
In the following video, Gertrud Sandqvist gives an informative, in depth lecture on the visionary painter. Sanqvist draws on unprecedented access to the artist's work and journals in her presentation of Af Klint's life, career, and spiritual approach to art. Working outside the European avant garde, Af Klint's abstract paintings pre-date the first abstractions of more well known modernist painters. This development is all the more striking because, as Sandqvist notes:
"[Hilma Af Klint] had no relationship to any other avant garde circles, being completely isolated in Stockholm at that time… her imagery is very, very similar - close to what later Malevich, Mondrian, and Kandinsky... were developing... [the] first abstract work that she was making was in 1907, two years before Kandinsky."
Sandqvist notes that the rediscovery of Hilma Af Klint's work began in earnest at the 1987 exhibition The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. That it took decades for her work to appeal to the public would not have surprised Af Klint according to Sandqvist:
"Hilma Af Klint's work was… esoteric, that means it wasn't shown during her lifetime. She herself in her last will said that this is 'for the future,' this is the message for humanity for the future."
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.