Curves & Stripes in Abstraction and The History of Art

Curves & Stripes in Abstraction and The History of Art

Above: Duke and Wigmore No. 24, 2008 by Gary Komarin   It is a most curious thing how some painters lean towards stripes and others towards curves in the development of their work. Neither is better than the other, they sit on opposite sides of the spectrum. Throughout the History of Art, and that of painting in particular, artists have been using both striped and curved motifs in their work. This was a natural progression as the world itself is filled with both striped and curved motifs. The human body is, needless to say, a bundle of carefully orchestrated curves. Architecture, stone slabs, trees that shoot up to the sky in a straight shot – all have aspects of the stripe, which moves in one direction only and does not bend or twist in its ascent. Some bones in the human body are quite straight, but most curve at some point as they reach their ‘attachment’. Painters began, sometime after the beginning of the 20th century, to choose between stripes and curves. I don’t think this was a communal decision. Rather, individual painters in the privacy of their studio and their own thoughts, selected stripes or curves as the motif for their work. With this decision (stripes or curves) painters may have felt that they were reaching ‘higher’ ground, as for many painters there is a spiritual quest that is going on, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. The world is such a complex and uncertain place that I believe it gave some artists great comfort to choose between stripes and curves rather than have this choice be made for them....
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. 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. 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.   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...
Tennis and Contemporary Abstract Painting

Tennis and Contemporary Abstract Painting

There is a very curious parallel between Tennis and Contemporary Abstract Painting. As an Abstract Painter who plays tennis nearly daily, I have noticed certain correspondences that neither Tennis Players nor Abstract Painters put into position, but nevertheless are present in both. A tennis court is a specified rectangle of a certain size with clearly remarked end points. Most abstract paintings are done on rectangular formats and not dizzy edged canvases or flobby pillow like surfaces. A Tennis Player is very aware of the edges of the court, just as an Abstract Painter is aware of the edges of the canvas. A Tennis Player is aware of the space between things: the space between ball and net, the ball and player, ball and Self and, particularly, if a ball is rocketing toward their head at 150 mph. An Abstract Painter is very aware of the space between things: aware of the center of the canvas, the edges of the canvas and the two and three-dimensional aspects of forms moving through space. Tennis players are forms who move through space; they know not where they may next move, though sometimes there is a several second awareness of where they should move if they can get there. An Abstract Painter has a similar built-in system of awareness of where they should move, or rather: where a form painted in free space should move and where the space around a form should move and shift in some fashion. Tennis is, in many ways, a very abstract set of agreements and circumstances. Players agree to abide by a set of rules. The court has...

Inspiration for Artists and the Game of Chance

For most Artists – whether Painters, Poets, Screenwriters or Novelists – there is often an element of Chance in the development of the work. A roll of the dice can lead to inspiration. A Writer stumbles upon an intriguing road sign on a dusty lane, a Painter spills paint on a new canvas that falls in exactly the right way, a Poet – straining for the best word to complete a poem – looks out the cloudy window of a train in Paris and sees the name of a new coffee company that fits the bill exactly right. I remember reading years ago how the great and smooth lounge singer Bobby Darin got his name. Darin…is a very mellifluous name for a singer born into an Italian family with a very complicated trisyllabic last name. As I recall, He was en route to an audition somewhere on a rainy night in New York City, rolls down the window of his taxi…   …And sees a local Chinese restaurant whose proper name was MANDARIN DUCK!   But… apparently the first few letters of the neon sign had conked out. So all that Mr. Bobby saw was DARIN.   He immediately sees the ‘light’ and as this name spoke to him – unannounced and unpremeditated – he jumped on it, and forever after was Bobby Darin! The Dadaists The Dadaist Artists in the early part of the 20th century played with elements of chance, in Paris and other parts of Europe. They would drop bits of paper on to a flat plane and where they landed is where they stayed. Dadaist Artists liked to find random...

What Is Your Inspiration? I Can Hear The Wilderness Listen

A Painter not only looks at the world but also they must listen to what it is telling them. Whether one is a landscape painter, a minimalist, a painterly abstractionist or a fully conceptual installation artist, one not only must pay attention to the world around him but also one must listen to what the world is saying. When using the term listen, I am referring to looking as much as listening. Looking and listening lay very close together on the observational bandwidth. Listen up, and you will discover your inspiration A Painter observes the world around him, often taking in information on a subconscious level as much if not more than on the conscious level.  By this I mean that a Painter, a Poet, a Novelist, a Singer, and an Actor are soaking in information all the time, whether that information is about spatial relations in landscape, about the beat of the rain on a metal roof, the sound of a chair being pulled across a bare stage, or the curious and unexpected expression of a child pondering a shell on the beach. These accumulated observations, building over minutes, days, weeks, months, and years become the source materials for a great deal of creative work that a Painter may do once they declare their intentions to be an artist and begin to do the work that an artist does. A Painter and an Actor, for example, have similar tendencies to watch people and things, in motion or stillness, to listen for the familiar and unfamiliar, to gather these many observations together and to knit them into the substructure...