Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Peter Sharp

Peter Sharp
Cicada, 2008
oil and acrylic on linen
200 x 150 cm

Australian painter Peter Sharp is having a show in Sydney.

Born on the east coast of Australia, this painter is well known for going out into the desert to record the surroundings. Making small, immediate drawings he then returns to his studio to paint. But it's what he does with the notion of landscape that attracts me to his work. Instead of treating the landscape as 'grand vista' for a faithful even reverential interpretation (the ubiquitous three vertical stripes), Peter Sharp instead chooses to hone into the things he sees on the ground, a rock or a seed pod for example might inspires him.

In his latest paintings the spider and it's web are his main subject and they're quite arresting

Fittingly, Sharp paints with his canvas laid out on the floor, a preference that honours his preoccupation with the microcosm, enabling him to take an aerial view of his work in progress. I love looking at these; abstractions combining hard edged forms with gestural strokes using both oil and acrylic.

Peter Sharp is an interesting painter because of the way he chooses to render the natural world and, in many ways, it's refreshing to see the Australian landscape recognised in this way.

Also, do check out his drawings - they're a treat. Mostly small to mid sized (sometimes gridded up to make a larger piece), these charcoal drawings are simple, graphic and direct. They just breathe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

canvas exposed

André Derain.
Fishing Boats, Collioure. 1905.
Oil on canvas, 15 1/8 x 18 1/4"

more fascinating is what a painter chooses to leave out.

Take the Fauvist painters for example. I never liked the paintings with the raw canvas peeking through - to my eye they were unfinished, unbearably muddy. These days I find myself drawn to works that are sparsely covered or have spaces that are deliberately left exposed.

The Fauvists, particularly Mattise, Derain and Dufy just to name a few, have a delicious touch - sometimes brilliant hues are dabbed and scraped onto the brown or white raw canvas ground. For the Fauvists this was a radical technique - particularly as it seemed to some as a sacrilegious departure from the divisionist techniques of the day.

Instinctively it feels like they had found a way to reduce the intensity of colour - as though even they acknowledged their wild unpredictable brushstrokes needed to be tamed.

But the picture above likely came as a result of Derain's desire to capture the landscape, utilizing blank space with only hints of colour to express sunlight on water.

It takes courage to allow a colour to hum above the bare surface, to resist the urge to fuss and tighten or cool colour with heavy doses of muted greys, browns and whites. Even Morandi, famous for fastidiously finishing a canvas with an all over skin of paint, left some sections untouched or just lightly scumbled. And this is why his paintings breathe.

Raw ground makes me wonder what's underneath, behind and through.

What isn't there creates passages for the eye, provides resting places, or defines a broad flat shape, energizing rather than flattening the space. The eye is unsettled until it adjusts and learns to see it with a fresh vision.

Fauvist painters did it. This painter and this painter does it. My most favourite Bonnard does it, (though you have to see it in the flesh to appreciate it)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mario Naves

Mario Naves
Postcard from Florida #19, 2006
acrylic paint and pasted paper
7 X 5 inches
Image from: Elizabeth Harris Gallery

I've been all a flutter over the collages of Mario Naves that I stumbled upon over at the blind swimmer. For Naves, collage is akin to painting. I totally agree.

Indeed, Naves certainly has a painter's sensibility.

I wish I could go and see this exhibition but unfortunately my place is a little too far from NYC. This awesome video did help.

In his current exhibition Mr Naves creates startingly beautiful little collages out of torn painted paper which he prepares himself. (This is a process that I've been using for some time too. Collage is a satisfying way to work through painting problems.) Naves confidently plays with the relationships between and amongst tones, hues and texture (varied brushstokes in particular) and seems to revel in the delicious feeling of placing paper, like paint, over a surface to mask, energise or reveal.

Those georgeous colours. I'm reminded of Bonnard's paintings for some inexplicable reason.

Over here, I found another painter, Kenzo Okada, who Naves shares an affinity with. Okada paints using similar subtle shifts in tones. Unfortunately I can't find any decent images but from the available jpegs I could swear that the paint is laid down as if it were paper rather than a liquid medium.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

prunella clough

Prunella Clough
False Flower

Oil on canvas

Speaking of Nozkowski, Prunella Clough (1919-1999) seemed the obvious choice for this post. Somewhere in cyber space I read of a similarity between these two and so knowing nothing about Clough I decided to investigate.

Then I bought a book of her work...and another.

Clough stands out as a painter of integrity and original vision. She chose to steer clear of the art world scene, instead dedicating time to her art as a 'practice' rather than to her art as a 'career'. In the 1950s she emerged as a social realist and then in the 60s she became more painterly and developed a personal abstract style that I never tire of looking at.

Two aspects of her working methods attract me. Her use of language to note colours and textures for future paintings are worth perusing and I think are just as intriguing as her final works. Then there are her reference photos of objects in situ, exploring colours and textures of random things - sort of like environmental still lives with an urban focus. Never used as direct references for paintings they do, however, inform us of her unique visual curiosity. Like a Nozkowski, a Clough is a sensory delight.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

For my first case I give to you....

Thomas Nozkowski
Untitled (S-31) 1998
ink on paper
9 x 12 inches

Ok, so this is a drawing.

It's a beautiful one though, and it's made by one of my most favourite artists. Thomas Nozkowski has been painting and drawing for many many years. You can see his paintings here and his drawings here.

I love to see a painter who can be unashamedly obsessed with the process of painting and the lushness of paint. His subject matter appear to be inspirations from a moment in time or a visual impression, such as how fragments of glass and plastic nuzzle up to a nob of moss. Nozkowski is probably a formalist so it's all about the figure/ground, baby!

Seriously, go see his paintings. I love the carnival coloured biomorphic shapes which sit confidently amongst or on top of grids and lattice work and the ameobic-like creatures that appear to have sidled shyly onto the picture plane; half coming, half going. When looking at his paintings I feel as if I'm watching figures on stage and I get the urge to burst out laughing, so surprising and fresh are his compositions. Also, Nozkowski eschews the whole 'mine's bigger than yours' thing and paints small on canvas board.

I like.

Which brings me to another artists who, unlike Nozkowski, is sadly dead.

Stay tuned....


In my line of work we have a saying - never fly naked when a storm's brewing. So here I am, undercover as it were, resplendant in lycra, searching high and low with intent to expose decent, hardworking painters - featuring the old, the new, or even the dead - all talented and brave warriors in this big bad world. It's dangerous work.

Is there a fine line between cool and crap? hmmm....is not for me to decide.

Is this a completely random and useless exercise? Possibly.

One thing I do know; if it's interior decoration you're after, then get the flock down to Ikea.

Enjoy the show!

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