Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Phillip Allen

Phillip Allen,
Between the Soup and the Cheese - version 5,
2009, oil on canvas, 50x50cm

Phillip Allen is a British born painter best known for his unique brand of abstraction incorporating modernist design motifs and contemporary painterly conventions. In a current exhibition at Transition Gallery in London, Allen, alongside Rose Wiley and Jake Clark, is showing a new set of works that represent a stylistic departure from his earlier paintings. Allen chooses an all-over treatment of the canvas yet, like his past work, still explores the delicacies of paint and their relationship to surface. In some of the works a full or partial narrow frame anchors the geometric forms nicely - an interesting and effective evolution from the two deliciously thick icing-like bands typically featured in former paintings. When I first saw these new works I really sat up and took notice because, to be honest, they just make the whole process of painting (arduous layering, gruelling removal, infuriating re laying etc etc) look so easy. Can you tell I'm a little frustrated right now? Seriously...this painter has all the tools and the nuanced visual language to make a beautifully rendered abstract painting. It is also, from what I can glean from my internet research, a style that is quintessentially British (a Prunella Clough legacy, perhaps? without forgetting a Nozkowskiesque nod to the small format, of course) and I'm very much enamoured of what is being made in that part of the world right now like this, and these.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sabine Tress

Fire walk with me -2009
acrylic on canvas
160cm x 160cm

Zorg -2009
acrylic on canvas
160cm x 160cm
(images courtesy of the artist)


Sabine Tress is constantly moving around in her studio whilst painting, choosing her colours in a very sensual way. This inspired me to create a sort of “painting-music-clip”. As much as music is able to create a mood and complete a space, Sabine´s paintings seems to do exactly the same. Colour seems to be omnipresent and traces of former painting processes are visible on the studio floor. It´s like a big “colour-symphonie” in which the paint-pots represent the instruments and the colours stand for the sounds and melodies. To me, being a cinematographer, Sabine´s creative process feels like a sort of dance with colour. I´m fascinated by this slender woman who is gracefully expressing so much power in the way she paints. I also love the way she stops to think or consider what she has just painted and then continues her fluid movements -Marion Hetzel

Hi all. It's been a while, I know. I hope you enjoy this wonderful little video by Marion Hetzel featuring German painter Sabine Tress in her studio. Sabine contacted me about two months ago to thank me for the small post I wrote here and since then we've been electronically chatting away. It's been a treat to talk with someone about painting who happens to live close to the places I would love to visit and the painters I would love to see in the flesh.

Sabine Tress is known for her seriously quirky, colour rich studies of interiors or more specifically living rooms complete with creatures (cushions, lamps, couches) reminiscent of Phillip Guston. Indeed, Sabine cites her painting influences as Guston along with Basquiat and Twombly to name just a few. Like Guston, these paintings are darkly humorous even sinister, kind of hinting at a deeper psychological intent if one cares to look. Sabine Tress is a painter who soaks herself in the visual and then applies through paint her own unique way of seeing the world and I love the world she creates...they make me want to sit around in them, languish in the sensuous colours, peel back the curtain-like layers, so I can take a peek at what lies behind. Watching the video I'm really inspired by the way she is not afraid to splash paint generously over the surface, to cover something that may or may not be working in order to discover something else. It's a lesson I need to learn - to get rid of the stuff that makes you stuck and precious because in the act of erasure there is an opportunity to find something surprising. Indeed, In her emails she says that she wants to be surprised by her painting process and that, I think, is a damn fine objective and she delivers that sense of discovery every time.

Of course, colour, applied intuitively, or specifically mixed, is central to Sabine Tress' work. Coincidently I've just been reading Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting by Bob Nickas and he could easily have had Sabine Tress in mind when he dedicates the third chapter to the idea of colour becoming structure in painting - where colour is a 'fundamental building block' or a painting's central subject. True to form, her recent work (find more here and also at the end of the video) is colourful and ever playful - utilising strong floating lines against swathes of colour swatches -but it's also unruly which is what makes these works compellingly complex and dynamic. I really sense her desire to push things further- surprise herself even more. To extend Marion Hetzel's music metaphor, If Sabine Tress's early semi- abstract works could be likened to a cool funky jazz fusion the latest more non - representational offerings are deliciously brazen, rule defying, punk. I can't wait to see what comes next - Sabine Tress is a painter to watch.
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