On receiving the news that one of my paintings has been acquired by this most respected museum in Rome, was needless to say quite exciting after painting these many years since I first showed my work with Maxwell Davidson in New York in the late 70’s. This museum in Rome has acquired a painting titled: ‘In Which the Baron Fallow’ 60 x 48”, which was first shown in a catalog exhibition by invitation with Robert Motherwell in Dublin.
For a painter it is quite important to be recognized thru one’s career by significant museums and art institutions. The Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna has a collection that is widely respected worldwide and includes works by Cezanne, Monet and van Gogh – as a highly respected collection of contemporary living artists. It was certainly a thrill to receive this good news and such good news keeps a painter alive and motivated and hungry to move forward with the ongoing thrust of one’s career.
Many architects and viewers of architecture focus on the finished products, the finished building or structure, which makes sense, but not fully appreciating the beauty of the work in progress, i.e. the scaffolding, the timber frame construction and for me, in particular, the interior sheetrock installation before its final coat of plaster is applied.
The bones of architecture, i.e. the necessary armature that essentially holds up each and every building is a fascinating amalgam of skeletal parts that crisscross in many directions all stabilized with nuts and bolts and yet stronger attachments to provide stability on all levels. A simple barn or series of barns as are being built as I write this by the Alexander Calder estate just up the country road from my studio is all hand cut beams, wide and thick and fresh in scent from the axe of the wood cutter. All post and lintel, no nails and as elemental as anything the shakers in western Pennsylvania had built in the past several centuries, as pure as a Japanese low ceiling ryokan in Kyoto, Japan.
For me, the early beauty of a freshly sheet rocked wall holds great visual and tactile interest. The separate sheets of sheetrock which are wide and flat are nailed or screwed to the attendant studs or beams, then slapped with a layer of mud or spackle the consistency of pudding and scraped and scraped again to lay flat. This is done several times with an addition of paper tape to seal any gaps that may appear. For me this early stage of sheetrock application with its taped and bedded formulations has an unexpected beauty. This underlay is soon lost visually as a final coat of paint is applied. I have done a number of large paintings, that utilize or loosely reference this sheetrock component for its intrinsic and honest beauty. The beauty of it all is that this stage of construction is not meant to be seen, and yet a Komarin painting reveals this moment in time. A very brief one, now not lost but held in time forever on the fresh canvas for all to see.
Many collectors wonder about the use of forms and formlessness in contemporary abstract painting. Throughout the history of art, painters would generally paint forms in space whether they were bison and antelope, Jesus on the cross or a cow grazing in a meadow under an azure sky. This made good sense, as a painting was painted to tell a story and the story depending on the depiction of forms in space whether those forms were painted large or small, clearly or less clearly, but overall the forms existed and were meant to be seen.
Abstract painting in the beginning of the 19th century, and with Picasso in particular leading the pack, painters began to break up forms and questioned the integrity of form. Partly as a result of experiments in physics wherein physicists began to see that forms were less stable than expected, composed of smaller particles that were themselves forever moving in space and these theories were somehow in the ether and painters being intuitive and tuned in, generally speaking, picked up on this issue of form and formlessness. Cezanne in the late 19th century began to break up forms whether they were human or trees or rocks and Picasso and Braque in Paris continued these explorations with analytic and synthetic cubism. Following this in the mid-20th century Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko further exploded forms in space, Pollock by dripping paint across the large surface of canvas he placed on the floor of his studio in East Hampton and Rothko by applying thin layers of paint, layering one color over another to dissolve form and create abundant and terrifyingly beautiful mystery.
Komarin also paints forms and breaks them up as did Philip Guston and Cy Twombly. In a Komarin painting, forms are drawn and painted in a quite intuitive manner and often destroyed and moved around. They become more and then less form, and Komarin is open to the interpretation of these forms. The painting has a life of its own, and the forms populate that painting to varying degrees. The great mystery and magic of painting is that they can continue to move and explore after the brush is put down, the lights turned off and the studio door closed.
Nearly ten years ago, I was invited to have a solo exhibition at the prestigious and privately owned Musee Kiyoharu in the countryside of Japan.
This is a pivotal and quite important exhibition for me as the exhibition was by invitation only, through the auspices of one of my Asian collectors who was in turn well connected with the owner of the museum who was a major collector in his own right. The show featured approximately twenty-five large works on canvas. The exhibition was titled: ‘Moon Flows like a Willow.’ The title came from a poem that my son Wyatt wrote when he was only 8 years old it had a beautifully oblique and resonant quality for me and also dovetailed very well with the Japanese fondness for willow trees and nature itself.
We flew to Tokyo and took a train to Kyoto and from there a taxi to get to the museum which was set in the countryside of Japan which is quite extraordinary with its swaying bamboo trees, most much taller than any I had seen in America. They bend in the wind in the most magical fashion. The show was a big success, widely reviewed in Japanese press and was followed by an outdoor concert featuring huge kettle drums that were played loudly with long wooden sticks.
Painting, especially abstract painting, speaks to all people. The voice of abstract painting speaks to all languages and language in a curiously happy way drops out and viewers can appreciate color, tone, texture and shape free from the limitations of language the painting speaks. The people dance. The drums play on.
Although it seems far more recent in the mind’s eye, it was back in the late 70’s that my dear wife and I rented a house out in the summer of 1979 in the Springs, East Hampton, where I was painting for my very first New York exhibition at Maxwell Davidson Gallery. Little did we know till a few days had passed that we had in fact rented next door to the world famous and very talented painter: Willem de Kooning.
I had been a devoted fan of de Kooning’s work ever since I was introduced to it in art school and very much loved his free swinging brush, and the way he would put a painting together, take it apart and put it back together, usually much stronger for the passages and necessary torture, it (the painting) went through. I am writing this piece from a cottage in Southampton, New York, looking out on grassy fronds and blue green bodies of water, all of it reminding me of that summer in the Springs. East Hampton and other sections of the east end of Long Island had great attraction for many painters of the early 50’s who were working in gritty downtown lofts, often dark and dank, and noisy from trucks rambling below. For de Kooning, the Springs reminded him of parts of Holland with its low lying land and pools of water and grass and a big sky overlooking everything. One would see de Kooning bicycling around in high white painter pant overalls and we chatted just a bit and he rounded this and that curve in the county roads.
At Bobby Van’s one summer night, (a local retreat where many painters and collectors gathered and way less busy than it is in the present day) I came up on de Kooning at the bar. I was drinking bourbon at that time, and we had one or two together and he was soft spoken and very smart and one could almost feel his intelligence combined with his dry wit. De Kooning’s paintings with their broad strokes and carefully ‘felt’ spaces between forms always spoke to me and still do. To this day, as one might imagine, I am still moved and appreciative that we had that drink and conversation in Bridgehampton that summer night and endlessly humbled to be part of the legacy that de Kooning, Pollock and Guston helped to form.
Southampton, New York
Collectors and curators often ask about the scribbles in Komarin paintings and works on paper. There is a curious set of differences between drawing in painting and scribbling in painting. Many people equate scribble with childlike play and there is much truth to that. Children draw and scribble openly, free from the constraints of order and clarity. They may attempt to describe a form of some kind, or more often the scribble will be a kind of energetic release, visual play with crayon or paint or pencil. Cy Twombly, a most respected abstract painter in this country who lived and worked in Rome for many years, used scribble often in his work. Twombly combined his sense of Greek and Roman history with aspects of American abstract expressionism and the free swinging of the brush. The works appear completely unplanned and have terrific energy and beauty. They often seem accidental and allow for a great variety of mark making. A Komarin painting incorporates scribble along with drawing in paintings and works on paper. The drawing often loosely references vessels and hats and common shapes from everyday life, though from to time an alien spacecraft of two will seem to pop up. So that the drawing in initial stages at least may describe consciously or unconsciously the description of “forms in space.”
Scribble in a Komarin painting will be most often unplanned. A Komarin painting will ‘need’ to have a certain amount of mark making to open up the space and bring new life to the drama unfolding. The scribble can be put down/ painted out and put down again. These rhythms have a life of their own as a form is drawn, erased, redrawn and then moved to another part of the canvas. Scribble is play but it also serves a serious function in the making of a Twombly, a Komarin…and those paintings, whether Picasso, Miro, Twombly, or Komarin paintings that combine drawing and painting together in a most organic manner. The scribble swims with the painted forms in a floating sea of activity.