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."
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."
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.