Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Pick: Thoughts on Paint

Today, I was sort of begrudgingly sitting down to my computer to put up my Sunday Pick.  Usually I am excited to share but this week no particular artist has been on my mind so much as one particular thought.  And then I had the epiphany that I write this blog and if I feel like changing it up, then I will.  So there.  My arbitrary, self-imposed categories are only as good as my own interest, so this week I am writing about something a little different.

Georges Braque,  Baluster and Skull, 1938
I mentioned that I visited the Braque show a few weeks ago.  That is where this kernel of thought first presented itself.  I was very taken with the surfaces of his paintings, thick, thick piles of paint in certain areas, and felt a strong link in that to something I have been seeing in some favorite contemporary works.  Then last week I read this post on Painters' Table by Brett Baker.  He writes about the third room in the show housing works from the 1930s saying: 
". Most striking are the surfaces - extreme examples of Braque’s method of adding sand to his paint. The sand’s heavy grit creates a surface that both reflects the ambient light and deepens that within the painting. In combination with the gentle outlines and washes with which he paints the objects, the sand creates a surprising fullness of space..." 
And his observations, sort of gave validity to my thoughts or at least renewed an interest in me to do the exhausting work of parsing out what all was sitting in the back of my mind. 

Still Life with Palette, 1943

 In person, it really was quite extreme what was being done with this thick paint.  For example with the painting above, the white squiggles on the outermost parts of the canvas operate as the illusion of a tablecloth's wrinkles or a twig branch in sunlight in the way representational painting functions but equally and confusingly also as that actual thing. The paint is so thick that parts become actual objects, relief sculptures that function not as an artifice but as a thing in themselves.  Like in the first painting, there is a painting of a wood table, but simultaneously also the actual surface of a table.

Now a contemporary example.

Jason Stopa, Watermelon with KB, 2013
 I really love this painting.  When I first saw it I couldn't stop thinking about it.  And then after the context of the Braque show, I felt like I really knew something of what was so engaging to me about it.  It is a painting of a watermelon, and yet it is also and perfectly equally a green thick circle of paint and also, the sculptural equivalent of the rind of that fruit.  

It's an idea that is so simple in a way that it is hard to wrap my mind around.  And also an idea that has been realized and analyzed before but it feels again new, like there is something to chew over here.

Trudy Benson, N, 2010

Sarah Faux, Hands on Hips, 2012

(those red fingernails!)

These paintings are bridging the gap between abstraction, representation and sculpture in a way that is positively electric.  Its the notion that these paintings can at once hold representations of the world, and actual real things that are impersonating nothing at the same time.  And they can sit comfortably together in one painting.  It feels like the right thing to say at this time, in painting.  Everything is at once masquerading as something else and also authentic in doing so.

I don't have much else conclusive to say, but hopefully it is enough of a thought to take away and look around with.


Anonymous said...

This is something thant has been seeping into my consciousness also for some time. It started quite a while ago when I saw a painting somewhere made using plasticine or playdough, it's physicality was just amazing to me. And then recently I've been noticing a lot of artists working with very thick paint: Valerie Brennan and Julie Torres to name a couple. I also love how people are combining spray paint and metalic colours. Great post, I love reading what you've been pondering.

Aubrey Levinthal said...

Thanks Judy! Those are great examples. Yes, it seems to really be an interesting place painting is flirting with. Do you know Keltie Ferris' work? I really like the way she is combining mediums including spray paint. Best -- Aubrey

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