Sunday, November 24, 2013
Posted by Aubrey Levinthal
Raoul de Keyser(1930-2012) has been on my mind a bit this week. He was brought to my attention and it was at just the right time it seems. I have been thinking a lot about what it means for a painting or drawing to be finished. I am constantly seeing my students overwork their drawings so that every part becomes of the same importance and there is no emphasis, no meaning. We discuss this idea of excess but it is a hard one to grasp at first. De Keyser is the master at doing so much with so little. With two lines I can tell as the viewer exactly where I am in relationship to the space and the sense of depth.
He rides perfectly between pure formal abstraction and image-based representation (he said some of his work was based on the lines of a soccerfield near his home in Belgium). I always put his work in line with Diebenkorn's ocean park series (based on the windows in his studio) or Ellsworth Kelly's forms (based on shapes from the exterior world) rather than someone like Barnett Newman.
And then I read this great article yesterday by Eleanor Ray about these sentiments. Using Morandi and Guston as examples, she discusses the fragile relationship between a painting's abstract life and its representation. Referring to Morandi she writes:
"He brings painting to the edge of representation, painting objects so simple that they are nearly reduced to shapes and lines, but never are. He locates the power of a line in the tension between its simplicity as a mark and its existence as something else — the space between two boxes or fingers. We can’t see a line or a shape in his still life as merely what it is because we can’t separate it from its participation in the painting’s representation."
I think this statement and the rest of the article (which is really worth reading in full) also applies to de Keyser and is quietly echoing around contemporary painters' work as a very interesting place to explore.
Note: I am sorry not to have more context on the paintings listed above, it was very hard to track down their dates and titles etc.