The Big Soup and The Abstract Painter

There are many times when painting is very much like putting a ladle into “the big soup” of life and seeing what pops up. By “the big soup” we refer to a rich mix of memories, word associations, visual images both consciously observed and subconsciously observed, snippets of poetry, road signs, names of places visited in life and nearly everything else. In addition, the big soup also refers to: tastes textures the memory of both, and the myriad unexpected combinations of forms in space — moving and still. Some forms are observed in real time and space. Some forms arrive in dreams. The soup differs for each individual. For me, the pot gets bigger and broader and deeper as the years go by and I see more and experience more in life. Both large events and the simplest of daily pleasures and activities broaden the pot. The soup of life is everything and nearly nothing at all. The soup of life can be the remembered shape of a childhood toy or the profile of an Egyptian Pharaoh glimpsed out to the corner of one’s eye, passing through a museum in New York. It can be the blue green shadow surrounding a tropical plant or the edge of a table as the sun dips low in the evening sky. An abstract painter like me plays with forms in space. Some paintings have more forms, others more space. Sometimes space and forms arrive in equal amounts. Neither is better or worse than the other. The space of a painting can be vast or it can be close at hand. A shallow...
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;...
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....
The Drip in Abstract Painting: To Drip Or Not To Drip?

The Drip in Abstract Painting: To Drip Or Not To Drip?

The Drip or the use of the Drip in Contemporary Abstraction is a complicated subject. It is natural for paint to drip. It is a liquid material, or can be made liquid to varying degrees and for anyone who has attempted to paint a house they will soon realize Paint will by its very nature drip. Throughout the world, in past cultures, the drip was not encouraged. It made little sense for a painter in prehistoric times, or the time of Christ or the Pre Renaissance or Post Renaissance to allow for drips in painting or a fresco or a mural. This diametric changed considerably with the beginnings of Abstract Painting in the early part of the 20th century. Painters began to see the drip as something with a certain ‘aliveness’ that might help to enhance the energy of a painting and this awareness of the drip came to center stage with Jackson Pollock in the later 40’s in New York, particularly when he moved from the warehouses of lower New York to the more open spaces of The Springs in East Hampton. Pollock had moved from painting with a brush to dripping the liquefied paint with sticks and brushes. He would lay the canvas flat on the floor and walk around the painting, losing track of inside and outside, top and bottom, east and west. There had been precedent for dripping paint amongst the Native American Indian sand painters earlier in the century, but Pollock took this dripping to new heights, in terms of complexity and scale, that had not been achieved before. The drip replaced the brushstroke:...