Scribble vs Drawing in Contemporary Abstract Painting

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...

Guston Pink & Komarin Pink

The subject of the use of the color pink by Philip Guston and Gary Komarin (me), who studied with Guston as a graduate teaching fellow in Boston in the mid 1970’s, comes up fairly often at exhibitions worldwide and studio visits by museum curators, collectors, critics and friends. Guston’s use of pink is very different from mine. It may stem in part from a certain ‘cartooniness’ in Guston’s work and mine, but that is where the similarities end. Guston uses pink in a darker and grimmer fashion, as the skin is peeled back to reveal the raw pink matter underneath where blood and pink membranes commingle under the outer skin. Historically, one thinks of such pivotal paintings such as ‘The Flaying of Marsyas’ by Titian in 1575, where a horned creature (Marsyas) is hung upside down and its outer skin sliced off as punishment for his sins. Guston had what I would call a tragically comic and rather dark vision of human kind and the human condition. He had lost a brother in a car accident whose legs had to be amputated followed by the spread of gangrene. I too lost a brother to leukemia when he turned 25, very shortly before I met Guston, but my use of pink is more life embracing, while still cartoony at times, as I was an avid reader of comic books and avid chewer of pink bubble gum as a kid growing up in New York in the 1950’s. The pungent inks of comic books fresh off the press was very available to a kid with a dime in his pocket, this...

New Puppies, New Life, & the Road to Creativity

  Two new teeny puppies arrived at my doorstep ready to see, smell, and touch the world for the very first time. I have been watching and tending to both Henry and Juno for several days and have begun to see curiously interesting connections between the process of painting and my new companions. Our new puppies pounce, dart, and roll around much like an abstract painter approaches the canvas. Fresh, new dogs bring life to the surface of the canvas and to the creative process itself , giving freedom to the brush and letting energy flow. My painting is very much about being fully alive, present, and staying in the moment, and I find inspiration in the way our new puppies will run around the rolling hills of Roxbury. My new terriers prance about, appreciating every moment this world has to offer. When I approach the  canvas, I immerse myself in the world of my painting. I find myself observing new forms to explore and develop, very much like these two puppies who are ever so new to the world....
Unexpected Color And Surfaces In The Bahamas

Unexpected Color And Surfaces In The Bahamas

I am back from ten glorious days on a teeny tiny island floating in the Bahamas. The island, with its exquisite blue green waters, pink sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, provided me with a great deal of calm in a tumultuous world. I breathed in with the ocean and gazed up at the deep blue sky. Curiously, a great deal of the local architecture has remains unchanged over the past decades. Like Havana and Cuba you can see white washed walls and beautifully repainted sides of buildings and doors where color comes thru color, much like an abstract painting. There are stone walls that wrap around churches, painted a deep yellow or azure blue. These walls at time are pockmarked in quite beautiful and unexpected ways. They reminded me of the surfaces of paintings by Jean Dubuffet and the arte povera movement in Italy in the mid ’30’s. There are also sections of curved walls where a top layer is painted a different color than the remaining wall. A lime green atop a rich grey, or a deep cerulean blue atop a swath of whitewashed wall. Much of this reminded me of the cakes that I make, as one color sits atop another in unexpected combinations. On the faces of many buildings are doors, either beautifully faded or painted a deep dark red or lemon yellow creating an unintended richness. An abstract painting, whether by Komarin or Matisse, where color is applied over other color, scraped down and repainted: all of this appeared around nearly every turn in the road. I could imagine Vincent Van Gogh, walking these streets, corncob pipe puffing away looking at this magnificence...
Driving Down a Road to Nowhere; Driving Down a Road to Somewhere

Driving Down a Road to Nowhere; Driving Down a Road to Somewhere

For an abstract painter, where nearly everything in life is abstract, painting is very much like driving down a road to nowhere. At the same time it is very much like driving down a road to somewhere. The distance between the two is thinly veiled. A slice in time and space. With no GPS to guide this way or that. There is no up and down, no left and right. Only space unfolding. Intuition plays a great part in all of this. But, if you listen too hard or too often, intuition will turn on you as well. It cannot do the work. It is not up to this enormous task. The painter must find the path. The painter must struggle through the reeds, the muck, the mire, the bramble. Torn and bloodied the painter crawls up from the slippery slope back onto the road. Sometimes you see something in the distance, but it is nothing. Other times you see nothing but your own hand, your own doubt and the painting appears before you. This is the magic of painting: it chooses you as much as you choose it. The road comes to a turn. One gets out and walks under a full moon. The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear;...
My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

My Visit to See Francis Bacon Paintings at Gagosian New York

I recently attended the new Francis Bacon exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in New York. I was struck by how very powerful his paintings were and was unexpectedly pulled into them, having seen them many times. This most recent visit was intense in its grasp of my attention and emotion. Bacon is a most curious painter in that he combined a raw and gritty set of images against a beautifully painted and often serene backdrop. Combining the beautiful with the grotesque gives Bacon’s work an unexpected mystery and strength. Francis Bacon came from a design background and did a certain amount of set design early in his career. He had a way with color that was somewhat schizophrenic. The ‘set’ or ‘stage set,’ within which his figures writhe and twist and bend and scream, is painted in a fairly flat and beautifully coordinated way. It occurred to me during this visit how elegant were the backdrops, lean and clean and very much like a Motherwell painting in their sensitivity to flat planes of color and beautifully aligned edges. The creation of a proscenium sets the stage quite literally for the drama that is about to unfold. Within this ‘stage set,’ Bacon gives us figures that are anything but beautiful. Often grey and grisly, Francis Bacon’s figures are twisted and torn, whether sitting or stretched out on the floor. Bacon’s figures are bruised and bent, sometimes missing parts of their anatomy – as if the pressures of life have carved entire chunks of flesh away. Bacon was interested in diseases of the mouth and one sees in many of his paintings...