Chaos and Control in Contemporary Abstract Painting

Chaos and Control in Contemporary Abstract Painting

Few people, including collectors and aficionados of contemporary abstraction, fully realize how much a painting veers between levels of Chaos and Control.

Picasso and his peers opened the door to the idea that a painting could be built up, torn down, and built up again.

This swinging Arc between Building and Destroying is part of the Process for Many Abstract Painters

And while there are some who proceed with carefully worked out plans, for many painters including me the process is far more chaotic and uncontrolled.

You have to make a big mess on the canvas before you can come in and clean up that mess.

Rows of Spots by Damien Hirst

Rows of Spots by Damien Hirst. [source]

The well planned canvas may work for some but for painters with my disposition, based on largely intuitive choice and based on moment by moment reaction to what is in front me on the canvas, the experience of painting for me, is more Like jazz.

Gary Komarin Cake Painting Abstract Art and Pop Art in the Studio

Unlike the process of constructing an office tower in a big city where every single decision is guided by a prior decision and all is controlled so that a cantilevered platform does not collapse on eager visitors to that building, a freely brushed and painterly abstract painting is free from the burdens of responsibility. It can be anything, and while it has an internal order upon completion, that sense of order can be far more oblique than obvious.

Color Panels for a Large Wall by Ellsworth Kelly

Color Panels for a Large Wall by Ellsworth Kelly at The National Gallery. [source]

The Act of Destruction in painting can be as enjoyable and cathartic as the Act of Building up forms in space. Control and Chaos sit on the same tight bench. The Painter moves from one set of circumstances to the other.

Not unlike a tightrope walker, The Abstract Painter must be on the edge of ‘something’ or a painting goes slack.

The Painter and the Tightrope walker create conditions of Unrest and then find ways to complete the journey.


Nagaski Bomb Mushroom Cloud Photo

Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. [Source]


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