More So, More Informed

I have 20 works, tiny and small strewn around my studio.  Colour and confusion.067

I have so much going on in my head but no clear focus.

I am taking the opportunity to go back to Stewart Geddes’ suggestions for artists I should explore.

Arena’s ‘John Hoyland, 6 Days in September’ John in his London studio in 1989 (Photo © Ferdinando Carppanieri)

John in his London studio in 1989 (Photo © Ferdinando Carppanieri) followed the artist, his process and his pain.  The physicality of the work on this scale, with ‘marks containing the energy of the stroke’, left the viewer in no doubt that painting is not a relaxing occupation.  Hoyland referred to the influence of Nicolas de Stael, Emil Nolde, Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin, all known for their use of colour.

Matthew Collins Rules of Abstraction traced the history of abstract painting from it’s roots in theosophy founded by Helena Blavatsky, to the spiritually guided work of Hilma Af Klint, and Kandinsky’s manipulation of colour/shape/line and its effect on the soul.

Hilma af Klint, The Ten Biggest, No 7 1907

Af Klindt -The Ten Biggest, No 7 1907, Oil and tempera on paper, 328 x 240 cm


Moscow I - Wassily Kandinsky -

who wrote The Spiritual in Art, studied with Rudolf Steiner who was a follower of Blavatsky.  Kandinsky referenced music in his work, suggesting that colour is like playing the piano.

Fiona Rae working in her studio demonstrates the emotional attachment to painting ‘something that doesn’t exist’.  Fiona Rae

She spoke of the rule of surprise, the rhythmn, the structural integrity.  No focus but different zones of intensity, an overall experience, and the importance of not repeating colour/brush size.

The French artist Sonia Delauney created ‘electric prisms’ using colour and form to celebrate light by optical vibration, a reference to Chevreul’s Colour Theory and Its Consequences for Artists.  Sonia Delaunay website banner

A friend of Kandinsky and wife of the abstract painter Robert Delauney, her subtle adjustments of colour create spiritual harmony.

Scottish artist John McLean suggests that treatment and placement are important for forms to emerge.

Paul Klee, conteporary of Kandinsky at Bauhaus, observed nature with tonally graded transparent colour.  His work completely changed following a visit to the Kairouan Mosque in 1914.

Paul Klee: Saint-Germain near Tunis, 1914–macke–moilliet_the-trip-to-tunisia-that-changed-modern-art/38391666

Klee and kandinsky were considered to be degenerate artists, distorting reality, with proposals for what perception actually is.

Collins and his artist partner Emma Biggs create works of pulsating light and dark.


Piet Mondrian believed that shapes define themselves by their difference. (an interesting article on the history and spirituality of abstraction.)

Vertical male, horizontal female.  Tension and contradiction.

Theosophy suggests that all imbalance will be balanced .  German philosopher Hegel’s  historicist and idealist account of reality revolutionized European philosophy and was influential to Marxism. Historicism places great importance on cautious, rigorous and contextualized interpretation of information.

Tess Jaray creates ambiguity in her work.

Tess Jaray | Artist

What is in front, what behind?  Inviting the viewer to participate.  Intense colour achieved through screen printing, creating a condensed version of reality.  (there’s that word again!  My reading this summer has lingered around that concept, more in a separate blog.)

Russian Kazimir Malevich, famous for his Black Square 1915, introduced Suprematism, simple forms, an abstract world beyond every day reality.  The white edge equals void.  Supremacy over feeling, feeling separate from reality.  Fourth dimension, time warped by space.  Theosophy into painting, new form of reason.

Kandinsky believed form is feeling.

In 1916 Popova joined Malevich’s supremisists group

Lyubov Popova – Violin 1914

Her abstraction striped to form was used as textile design.  Such abstraction was replaced by propaganda.

In America, Jackson Pollack, was creating a ‘visual symphony’ through the use of tightly controlled rhythmic structure, the materials and the range of textures.

English artist Paul Tonkin creates harmony through energetic pouring and under-painting, with a life and rhythm of its own in vibrant colours.  The huge canvas is then cut into rectangles for separate paintings.  Drawing is movement.  The colours work together talking to the artist.

Paul Tonkin preparing a canvas in Mathew Collins documentary

English artist Dan Perfect works to a plan.  He takes a small drawing and scales it up, as if performing a musical score.  Quick, evocative expressive marks, an imagined correlation of an extrovert world.


Dan Perfect – Village 2007

Russian American Mark Rothko created a breathing surface, the whole of existence, a cosmic unity.  The experience of redness and darkness is celebrated in this work.

Mark Rothko ‘Black on Maroon’, 1958 © Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 1998

Back on Maroon 1958

A troubled soul, he was a philosopher/priest in a Rothko centric world.

Albert Irvin, a friend of Stewart, was informed by his movement through the world.  Brushmarks were his verbs, painting his landscape.  His reality was layered through colour.

Albert Irvin, Rosetta, 2012
acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in/ 152.4 x 121.9 cm

El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor,  pursues the themes of memory and loss in his sculpture, especially the damage wrought by the colonial period and traumatic post-colonial aftermath.

Man’s Cloth is made from recycled bottleneck foil.  A metaphor for delusion.

Welsh artist Mali Morris MFA, works with colour, light and rhythm.  In his essay Matthew Collings ‘ spontaneity and chanciness, and having faith in the unprepared gesture but also a sense of knowledge and experience informing the various giddy leaps that the artist takes. ‘

Mali Morris Lost Light 2012 acrylic/canvas 25 x 30 cm at RA Summer Exhibition, 4 June – 12 August 2012

Dennis Creffield studied with David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic.  This recent work captures his energetic approach to painting that hasn’t diminished with time.

20110912 135033 GoSee:Dennis Creffield Jerusalem at James Hyman Gallery

Jerusalem 2011

Stewart also referenced Monet, a jazz musician inventing round a theme, Emil Nolde with his intense use of colour in a more figurative way, ,

Americans Richard Diebenkorn with his subtle abstracted figurative work,

Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #79, 1975 Oil on canvas 93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm) Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with funds contributed by private donors, 1977 ©The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn Image courtesy the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Ocean Park 79

Provincetown - Helen Frankenthaler

and Helen Frankenhaler, and Cecily Brown

Cecily Brown, ‘Carnival and Lent’ (2008).

Reflecting on Stewart’s direction

I have written this journal as a snapshot reminder of where Stewart sees my influences.  I have picked and prodded through his artists, peeling away to reveal what he is seeing.  Scrolling through the journal I am astounded by the colour, the layers, the footprint, the history of the work, encapsulated in single images.

Each artist comes from a different place, has  a different process, uses different references, but they all arrive driven by colour and form.

Stewart suggest looking at brush strokes and energy, start with a photo and respond to the materials, the rest will follow, it cannot be forced.  Watching Shani Rhys James at work reinforces the message of Hoyland’s ‘6 days in September’,  painting is a lot of ‘stand and stare’, patience, challenge, emotional response, sensitivity, seeing with creative eyes.  I like the way that Rhys James is digging within, challenging the viewer, making them feel uncomfortably moved.  She constructs images from memories.  I can’t access those memories but I have photos from which to develop those memories, to spark my emotional response.

Shani Rhys James, The Rivalry of Flowers

The Rivalry of Flowers 2

I can relate to where she is coming from, her use of colour, emotion and form, her seek and find approach to figures.