T U B E S
magazine for art, artists and art galleries
issue 1 #4
alpha - omega - alpha - a beginning, and ending and perhaps a new beginning?
It’s almost an impossible task to determine how
abstract painting first began.
And it’s a question that confronts most art
academics and historians with each will telling
a different story. This special feature sets out to
provide a base ground for the reader and whilst
it is difficult to outline all of the twists and turns
of abstract painting in detail, it is hoped the
feature will help the reader get to grips with the
current painters leaning to what could be called
To many artists and art galleries and art
collectors that may sound like a contradiction in
terms. Hopefully, all will become clear towards
the end of the feature.
The writer (an artist and the Editor of painters
Tubes) is neither an academic nor is he an
art historian as such. The feature has been
approached in the ways of an experienced and
studious art researcher and painter, rather than
the normal or formal academic approach.
There are many hundreds of artists working
today who create wonderful abstract art and,
we are sorry to say, painters Tubes cannot
possibly show them all within this feature.
However, the ‘living’ artists work that is featured
are all of a quality that connects the past and
the future and we believe they demonstrate the
depth of talent and art that abstract artists are
An argument that could be made is that all Art
is abstract by its very nature. What we see, as
individuals, is as different as we are from each
other, therefore what we see is only one reality.
With figurative (realist) art there is
a commonality of course. A tree, in real life or
painted on canvas, is still a tree and we all can
recognise it as such. Even an abstracted
tree (invented by the artist) is still a tree to
the viewer of it. So, what is abstract and
what is not abstract art is plainly subjective.
With that conundrum in mind the Editor has
set out to design a route for quantifying
contemporary abstract painting, which in
itself is a task of complexity.
Mainly because, from an historical
viewpoint, there is no obvious starting point,
no middle and no ending to adequately
provide the reader with a greater grasp of
what is Abstract Art and what it is not, hence
the title of this feature.
The word ‘abstract-art’, (to many of the
public and some realist artists), throws up
visions of paint being thrown willy nilly or
brushed loosely onto a flat surface by an
artist who has momentarily lost their mind,
launching into a world of their own making.
Much abstract art is perceived, by the
general public, as Art which is not imbued
with any skill of application or forethought
(the “anyone can do that”- syndrome).
This perception of the ‘word’ abstract art,
may still exist, but to a lesser extent today.
Embracing abstract art as a serious image
of contemplation for intimate reflection and
self examination, is not what the general
public are accustomed to.
Yet, Painters Tubes has no ambition to
set one form of painting against another,
(realism versus abstract), each in turn have
their merit and their admirers, which is as it
Introduction by the Editorial Staff
Front and Back cover photograph: John Walker in his studio. Courtesy of Alexandre Fine Art Inc.
Alexandre Gallery, 724 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, New York, 10019
T U B E S
Pages 2 and 4: Introduction and Editors page
Pages 5 to 20: Alpha. 20th Century: From Cubism to Futurism to Dada.
Artists discussed: Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Delaunay, Mondrian, Derain,
Gris, Metzinger, Balla, Malevich, Kandinsky and Marcel Duschamp.
Pages 21 to 30: Omega. 20th Century: American Abstract Expressionism
to Figurative Abstract Expressionism
Artists discussed: Mark Tobey, Mark Rothko, William de Kooning , Clifford
Still, Nicolas de Stael, Arshile Gorky, Barnet Newman, Yves Kline, Jackson
Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Robert Rauschenberg.
Pages 31 to 56 : Alpha. 21st Century (a new beginning?)
John Walker, Kayla Mohammadi, Lisa Kreuziger, Denis Taylor, (Tubes Editor)
Steven Heaton, David Stanley, Jean Mirre, Riccardo Vitiello,
Colin Taylor, Mike Weeden, Hans Reefman and Shahin de Heart
“...Reality is not visible, it’s only an imaginable possibility.
That’s why Art is possible and why it is important for humanity to
create Art. We imagine the World...it’s not real at all..”
painters Tubes magazine
designed & produced by Studio 5 Sweden.
registered office: Ekerodsvagen 253, 266 95 Munka Ljungby. +46431441050
email:firstname.lastname@example.org - www.painterstubes.com
ptmag- #4 - 2017- 07-30
To gain some sort of road map and to try to help quantify
contemporary abstract painting today, I felt it was a good idea to go
back to the beginning when Abstract Art became
fixed into the psyche of the modern world, as being a different
sort of art from the other forms of painting.
The inter-relationship of twentieth century poets, art critical thinkers,
academics and practising artists, have all contributed to what
we now consider as Abstract painting. Without first re-reading
with concentrated study of all these considerations then a total
understanding of abstract art and it’s development is probably not
possible The objective of this feature is to give the reader a baseline
for the ‘visual reasoning’ behind abstract painting creation as
an art form. And to provide a guide of how it came about and then
developed by painters. This twentieth century historical ‘re-run’ is as
important as the understanding we now hold of the ‘Renaissance’
movement in Europe, one which was to prove to be so important for
the future development of all modern Art.
As an artist of some longevity, it is quite natural for me to have read
volumes about Art over the last 30 years or so, as no doubt many
fellow artists have also done. It is only when refreshing my own
knowledge and discovering even more information, perhaps forgotten
or missed, that I realised the enormity of the task that lay before me.
A certain amount of necessary ‘omissions’ had to be considered
to reduce the feature to a readable length. Some of these ‘edits’
consisted of whole movements and/or groups of artists who pursued
a varied form of abstract painting like the more ‘known’ artists of the
twentieth century. i.e. the Cobra Group, German Expressionists,
Gestural abstraction, Kinetic art, Minimalism etc have been edited
out to some degree. However, it is probable that these ‘types’ of
abstraction will be covered by the magazine at a later date. It is also
evident that many equally important artists have not been highlighted,
again this was a conscious decision, necessary to ensure the
reduction of too many examples which could have affected the flow.
The feature is written in three parts, Alpha (beginning) Omega
(ending) and Alpha 21c (new beginning) – The selected art for part
three that is shown, only as examples and cannot possibly represent
‘everything’ that is currently out there on the contemporary art scene.
My intention here was to gather images from artists that present
a fair view of the outstanding work now being produced by dedicated
abstract painters of all dimensions.
I was delighted to have discovered or reconnected with artists from,
Germany, Italy, France, Holland, the USA and the UK. And to the
Artists who have allowed the magazine to show examples of their
work I give you my personal thanks.
I hope you find this special feature insightful, enlightening
Denis Taylor, Artist & Editor, painters Tubes
image:Lascaux animal painting - credit: Prof Saxx - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
“in the beginning there was Art, it wasn’t called art, but it was none the less.”
part one – alpha
The act of making a mark to communicate something to another human seems to
have been etched into the very DNA of our species. For example, helping establish
co-operative successful working methods, in the gathering, hunting or trapping of other
animals for food, which no doubt helped the survival and dominance of our species.
Imagery, it seems, became the de-facto communication medium before language or the
written word evolved in sophistication. This is an assumption of course, because we
cannot be sure that imagery was the all important difference that elevated the human
species to dominate this planet. To date no one has proved otherwise and what positive
evidence there was is scratched on the walls by our early ancestors. Whatever is the
truth of what came first, language or images, imagery was and still is, the quickest
form of communication and the most effective, as far as conveying deeper meanings
concerning the complex psychological conditions of a human being.
Adopting images to convey spiritual understanding and encourage religious fervour
was the strategy embraced by the leaders of organised society, from the ancient
civilisations through to today. The legacy of humanities Art is felt world wide and held in
high esteem. Today much of this art is almost worshipped and the makers of it regarded
as ‘divine’ having been ‘touched by the hand of God.’ Michelangelo being a prime
example of this idolisation.
In the past centuries there was a general acceptance that Art was the cultural reflection
of all humanities activities, its belief systems, its questioning of social morality and
human interactions. It is not surprising that Artists would adapt, change or develop their
art to public opinion and be employed by almost every organised nation to instil on the
mass population their own specific dogma’s.
It was not unreasonable for the artists, of that time, to believe that was to be their job.
Above: Paul Durand-Ruel, Art agent come gallerist who was largely responsible for the impressionists
painters succes. Pictured in his gallery c.1910.
©Domac/Durand-Ruel & Cie/Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.
In the past Art was relied upon as the path finder for new ways of conveying philosophical
‘thinking’ about life, death, the after life and existence itself. In the 21st century, that is not
really the case, as other mediums have superseded static visual art. Film, videos, television
and to some extent, even social media, now fulfils that roll.
By the beginning of the twentieth century the Western world had progressed, technologically,
to a point where the future seemed as if all the problems of the previous centuries would
be solved. Machines had mobilised society with efficient transportation systems. Power
(electric and gas) was available at the switch of a button, clean water was piped directly to
all citizens homes, new sewage systems cleaned up the environment of the City, improved
infrastructures led to vast company profits and the population followed behind it, slower
perhaps, but nonetheless incrementally better off.
More importantly, the Western nation states acquired a cultural superiority complex, one that
they believed provided high global status, one that was the justification for empire building.
Art and artists reflected this complex society with advances in image making and celebrated
it by producing work that looked and felt ‘modern’ as the industrial revolution sped towards
its total dominance of the natural world and the incredible social change well before the
famous 1900 Paris World fare.
By the turn of the century, in Paris, at the World Trade Fair (btw, Paris was already the art
capital of the world) the impressionists were ‘the stars of the show.’
They were very well established in the fashionable art galleries of the French capital city.
By 1900’s – The camera became a must have accessory of the people, with many artists
predicting the end of the need for painting. Paul Gauguin was creating his last masterpieces
in Haiti, Vincent van Gogh had been dead ten years. Degas eyesight was in decline and
Rodin was proving his status as the ‘genius’ of the new modern sculpture. And Cezanne?
He was just beginning to make his presence felt on the art market as a great modern
painter. The art world had witnessed the birth of post impressionism. And christened them
‘Fauves’ (wild beasts). The groups most intellectual member, Maurice Denis, made
a challenging statement, one that is still relevent to todays painters...
Portrait of a young Man. 36 inches x 29 inches
- 918mm x 736mm.
by André Derain
Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum. NYC
©2017 ARS- Artists Rights Society
New York/ADAGP, Paris.
“...remember that a picture – before being a battle horse, a nude woman or some
anecdote – is essentially a flat surface covered with colours arranged in
a certain order.”
(Maurice Denis, essay published in 1890)
It appears that many Artists, before 1900, were the cutting edge of a brave new century to come and
therefore prepared the way for artists to go forward to open the minds of the population of Europe.
“...when the means had become so refined, so weakened, that their power of
expression had gone, we had to return to the essential principles on which human
language was formed.”
(Matisse talking about ‘Fauvism’ circa 1936)
The phrase ‘Avant Garde’ could have been applied to any one of several artists at this early stage of
modernism, and what we now regard as early examples of contemporary painting.
Today, however, we regard Cubism as the real beginning of what typifies twentieth century Modernism
(Abstraction in painting). For example, certain names spring to mind the minute the word Cubism
is used, namely Cubism’s innovators, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, even though neither
of them ever referred to themselves as Cubists, nor took part in any of the Cubists exhibitions
(before or after 1911). It is generally believed that African masks were the stimulus for the creation
of Cubism. Although the ‘primitive’ aspect of art was already being investigated energetically by the
post impressionists (the Fauves) well before 1905. Which may account for the interest of Matisse and
Picasso in these simplified forms. It is possible that both artists saw the examples at the studio of the
painter André Derain, who himself may have acquired them from André Vlaminck (with reference to
the Museum of Ethnography and Anthropological Gallery, now known as the Musee de l’Homme in
Paris, which Vlaminck was an avid visitor). The absolute truth of where and who first became excited
and aware of the African masks, as a new way to paint human forms is still clouded.
However what is known is that these chance encounters opened a whole new way of ‘seeing’ and was
to represent a leap in the development of painting in the Western world, one which had never been
seen before, or arguably since.
“Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
Oil on canvas (96 inches x 92 inches. -2440mm x 2340mm).
above: Matisse. “the joy of life” Oil on
canvas. 68.5 inches x 93.75 inches -
1740mm x 2381mm
above: ‘Madamme Matisee’ -the green line. Oil on
canvas. 16 inches x 12-75 inches-
406mm x 324mm
In 1905, Henri Matisse painted “Madame Matisse -
the green line’- which signalled a whole new painting
process for him, as far as ‘colour’ and the ‘look’
he wanted of an ‘immediacy’ of paint application.
In truth, the work was slow and methodical with
many corrections to imitate the ‘look’ he wanted.
However, a whole new challenge presented itself to
both Matisse and Picasso and it came in the form of
Cezanne’s large figurative painting (Large Bathers
83 inches x 98 inches. 2100mm x 2510mm), which
had become well known and much admired in
Paris. Matisse responded with a successful, albeit
controversial work “the Joy of Life” and Picasso
began “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
Picasso’s effort is now seen as ‘the’ all important
modern art canvas, although at the time, he did
not feel it was in any way close to what he wanted.
His ambition to produce a monumental canvas, in
response to Cezanne’s bathers, seemed to have
failed miserably. He altered and tried different
approaches (including the african mask imagery on
one or two of the female figures) then he simply gave
up on it. He rolled up the painting and abandoned
the work to a corner of his studio (c.1907).
It is possible that Picasso’ rejection of the work was
in reaction to his fellow artist friends, who on viewing
the work, thought it ‘ghastly.’ His next large painting
‘Nude in a Forest’- ‘the Dryed’ 1908, however gave
him the chance to explore primitive imagery more
simply and succinctly with the basis of simplified
forms of African sculpture, having tentatively
experimented with them in less detail with
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
Picasso. ‘Nude in a Forest’ -the Dryed-
1908. Oil on canvas.
73 inches x 42.5 inches. 1854mm x 1080mm
The ‘Dryed’ painting may have reinforced the thought that ‘planes’ using light and dark alternatives in
undulating spaces, proved that not all parts of the same painting need be in total sympathy with
each other. This conclusion was to launch himself and Braque on a voyage of discovery that was
to change the way painters considered creating two dimensional art. George Braque worked in the
same building as Picasso at this time, and their collaboration is today legendary.
“It was like we were two mountaineers roped together..” (George Braque)
The two artists, although totally different in personality, worked on the same method of painting between
1909 and 1911, often choosing the same subjects to assist each other and develop the fledgling mode
of painting which came to be known as Cubism. The early form was given the grand title of Analytical
Cubism and the paintings actual titles were provided by an Art dealer rather than the artists themselves,
as way to identify them.
It is believed that Cubism sprang from the art of Cezanne. And although directional brush strokes could
be comparable, the essence behind the work of Cezanne and Cubism could not be more different.
Cezanne spent time studying his subject matter to enable it to fit his canvas (in almost classical ways).
He wanted the finished work to be of a solid value with space that had a physical existence.
Picasso and Braque chose subjects they knew (still life, guitars or people etc) and painted them without
need of absolute reference because they knew their subjects so well and painted them in a more playful
way with far less passion than Cezanne is said to have done.
The important note to make here is the difference between [figurative] art and reality.
When Picasso painted “Man smoking a pipe” in a cubist manner a line was crossed.
The painting today is understood perfectly, as a man smoking a pipe, but when it was first seen it must
have confused and bewildered the onlooker. Pieces of identifiable reality are not that easy to spot, the
pipe, the mans head, bits of lettering from a newspaper become clear only after a getting acquainted
time period, but even these parts of reality must have increased the confusion rather than helped the
viewer to understand what it was they were actually looking at.
Was it a work of art, was it a portrait of man? Or was it sheer nonsensical rubbish?
“Man Smoking a Pipe.” 1911. Oil on canvas. Oval. 36 inches x 28.25 inches.
914mm x 717mm. Fort Worth, Texas. ©Kimbell Art Foundation.
George Braque - Still Life.
©ADAGP Paris and DAC London 2017.
We have come to accept, as true, that as far as Picasso and Braque were concerned, the only
thought that they had was:- “seeking a new expression” (quote from Picasso, 1932).
We can assume that in 1908 with the art legacy of Impressionism, and before that, the art of
Courbet and Manet, who had set the path for Art (painting) to interpret the real world quite
directly and straight forward, but with a stylistic fervour. Cezanne (and perhaps Seurat) perfected
a controlling mechanism to capture ‘absolute reality’ through methodology and precision.
Other artists, prior to 1900, turned to Symbolism as a way to paint fantasy and dreamlike
scenarios, whilst maintaining an image that the viewer could easily recognise and identify with.
Cubism did not follow any of those preset rules or methods.
“Cubism was a completely new idiom and a totally original
new form of expression.”
Braque and Picasso however did not sit on the initial canvases as a finality. They swiftly moved
forward to what we now call ‘Synthetic Cubism’ – This involved less brush work and more
collagé. In itself not a new innovation, painters had always placed other bits on their work to gain
an idea of how ‘space’ would react to the composition (paper for example).
Braque and Picasso simply left the ‘paper’ on the canvas as part of a work. They drew over the
glued items with charcoal or stuck bits of texture material to the canvas, then declared them
‘finished’. Again this shocked and inspired artists like a double ‘new-art’ whammy and propelled
them into joining the party. Juan Gris (1887- 1927- real name: José Victorian Gonzales) was
one of a number of artists that grabbed the cubists animalistic tail and ran with it.
Robert Delauney (1881-1941) and Fernand Léger (1881-1955) were two more artists inspired by
Cubism and used it’s two different forms (analytical and synthetic) in very unique ways.
Even Matisse played with a canvas or two with a cubistic nature to them, albeit a few years later.
(“Bathers by a River-1916-1917).
Juan Gris - “Portrait of Picasso”
Paul Klee (1879-1940), David Bomberg (1890-1957) and many
others far too numerous to mention, took their lead from Cubism to
develop and expand their own work. An outstanding convert was
Piet Mondrian(1872- 1944), who prior to staying in Paris around this
time, had been painting the flat landscapes of his home (Holland) in
various techniques (impressionism and post-impressionism) that
was until he came across Cubism. It changed his outlook and
before too long began creating art that was to lead to his
’Neo-Plastic’ Art. (the perfection of the 90 degree angle).
Perhaps a first sign of what was to come was the painting
‘Still Life with Ginger Pot #2 of around 1911, which led him to almost
total abstract in the later work ‘Colour Planes Oval.’
Mondrian’s thoughts on art were complex and involved spirituality
more so than many other artists. *Theosophy played an important
role in his creation process, as did the belief that his plastic creations
were the ending and not the beginning of Art. His paintings, he said they
were to be considered as part of ‘the wall’ and not an object that was simply
placed upon it.
*(ref to: Spiritual movement founded in 1875 as the Theosophical Society by
Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott.
Before the dictatorial Russian Socialist Revolution, many Russian artists
could travel freely to the West. In particular to Paris and Berlin and it can
be taken as read that both Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) and Wassily
Kandinsky (1866-1944) had contact with and was well aware of the new
Cubist developments in painting. And fully understood what the new
expression had to offer as the basis for looking at the world and art creation
in a totally new and different way.
‘Still Life with Ginger Pot #2 -circa1911
( 36 inches x 47inches- 920mm x 1200mm)
Piet Mondrian. “Colour Planes in an Oval” 1914. 42 inches x 31 inches - 1070mm x 787 mm
It’s seems quite astonishing that one single
movement, one that opened the door to
a new way of expression and a new way of
creating paintings, appears to have been
the springboard for almost all the abstract
art in Europe from 1909 and well into the
middle of the twentieth century and possibly
beyond into twenty first century.
A number of reasons may have been the
root for that extraordinary longevity of
Cubism’s influence on painters and painting.
In 1911 a group of enthusiastic new-cubist
painters gathered themselves together
within an exhibition at the Salon des
Indépendents, their part of the show gained
extensive press coverage as ‘the start of
a new French art movement’.
Even though neither Picasso nor Braque
took part in the exhibition, Cubism was
further promoted in 1912 in a book
published and authored by Albert Gleizes
and Jean Metzinger, both newly committed
“the Eiffel Tower.” Robert Delaunay 1909-1910
810mm x 1160mm. ©StaatlicheKunsthalle, Karlsruhe.
More importantly an exhibition, supported
by enthusiastic sponsor(s), resulted in
a travelling Cubist show touring most
European Cities, including: London,
Barcelona, Cologne, Zurich, Munich, Berlin,
Prague and Moscow. The travelling Cubists
exhibition had now ‘lit the art worlds blue
touch paper’ and the whole of Europe was
on fire with a light that burned very bright
indeed. Some would say, blindingly so.
Before 1914 another new and forceful ‘spin
off’ movement from Cubism arrived on the
scene with a bang. The first indication of it
was a manifesto printed on the front page of
a French newspaper (La Figaro, 1909).
The manifesto was written by the Italian
Poet and Playwright Emilo Marinetti.-
‘Futurism’ - was the chosen word to
describe it. It’s baseline was the total
rejection of all classical art, in all its forms.
And insistence of the acceptance that
‘Machines’ & ‘Speed’ were the new form of
beauty and should be regarded as a sort
of new (artistic) religion. Although the real
aim of the Futurists was to place Italy at the
forefront of all European culture.
Jean Metzinger. “Tea Time.” 1911. 759mm x 702mm.
©Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Marinetti’s fanatical ravings also placed
violence and war as worthy ‘cleansers’ of
a corrupt cultural society and [all the art]
that had gone before Futurism was void, he
said. However, the ‘Futurists’ active support
for World War One, some years later, was
it’s downfall. Perhaps wrongly, Futurism
became to be regarded as a ‘Fascist’ or
‘Violent Art’, because of the dogma of the
Marinetti manifesto in 1909 (perhaps?)
Giacomo Balla. “Girl running on a balcony.”
Yet the paintings of leading painters were in fact quite different, their work was superbly painted and
ground breaking in their own right. Fracturing the images by interlacing curvatures in a repeated
image gave the impression of movement and time. Dynamic images of trains, steam and power
lines supported the ‘modernistic’ outlook of the Futurists. It was a method that was to be used more
discreetly in the later twentieth century by many artists and even today it’s basic‘structures’ are
repeated by many artists using a different subject matter, but with the same technical break down
of curved repetitive fracturing of the surface. The ‘Futurist’ artists and best known for their original
paintings, were Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra and Giacomo Balla.
Umberto Boccioni. “Dynamism of a Cyclist” 1913
“Art...as in sculpture, verbal art, art and music etc - has been
subjugated by the shapes of nature, waiting to be liberated...”
Other ‘stand-out’ figures (besides those already mentioned) in the new abstract painting of the early
twentieth century were Malevich and Kandinsky. Malevich an artist (from the Ukraine) had walked
down the path of impressionism to Cubism before arriving at his concept of Suprematism.
The formalised style of painting that suggested that all art past and recent art prior to Suprematism
“...as in sculpture, verbal art, art and music etc - has been subjugated by the shapes of nature,
waiting to be liberated...” the opening line extracted from ‘Cubism to Suprematism’ and written by
Malevich in 1915.
His process of creating a painting from shapes that were not present in nature (squares, oblongs
etc) was an idea shared by quite a few of his fellow artists. They had all believed in and veraciously
supported the ‘workers’ revolution of 1917 which they understood as a new beginning for a new
modern art and a new Russia. Which did happen, but perhaps not how they had envisioned. They
naively believed that they were duty bound to reflect the spirit of a newly found freedom from
a former materialistic society, little realising they were supporting a system that would be far worse.
Kazimir Malevich. “the Woodcutter” 1912. 37 inches x 28.25 inches
940mm x 715mm. Cubism with inference to Léger style of tubular figuration.
Kazimir Malevich ‘Suprematist Painting’. before 1927. Oil on canvas.
33.5 inches x 27.2 inches 840mm x 695inches.
“power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely ”
(George Orwell, from Animal Farm 1945).
Where Malevich was a passionate Ukrainian, Kandinsky appeared to be more of a cold academic.
He was from the bourgeois side of Russian society (prior the Revolution). And he was an
extremely well educated man who hadn’t turned his hand to ‘Art’ until he was thirty years old,
(unlike Malevich who had committed himself to art from an early age). Kandinsky’s love of music
became integral for him when creating art, to try and attain an art that held the same power
(resonance) as music - “to overwhelm the senses and experience’ the inner spiritual feelings of
a human”..being the goal. It became his quest to establish a formula, in much the same way as
music had notes to indicate tone or pitch. Kandinsky sought after a theory of colour (and later line)
that could perform the same functional formula as musical written notes. His research eventually
led to the beginning of an abstract painting approach which began with the well known series of
works, called ‘improvisations’ and ‘compositions.’
During Kandinsky’s position as Commissariat for Education for the revolutionary new Russian
state, and after he had returned to Russia from Paris & Germany, his paintings became less
haphazard in their appearance and more organised using geometric formal forms. Perhaps not
unlike Malevich, Theo Van Doesburg and Mondrian’s paintings, which was following on the same
line at the same time. It is probably important to mention the guiding role of Vladimir Mayakovski,
who although had trained as painter, became a poet and the unofficial leader of the Russian
avant garde for two decades (he committed suicide in 1930 at the age of thirty seven years old).
Mayakovski created ‘visualisations’ for some of his ideas for posters and socialists propaganda,
normally drawings, but usually carried out to greater fulfilment by Alexandre Rodchenko, who
had adapted collagé (from Cubism) and used it to create photographic montage’s as the main
medium of choice. Many believe (including the writer) that in the later twentieth century Western
commercial product advertisement design’ sprang from Rodchenko artwork of this era.
Kandinsky. Composition V11. 1913. Oil on Canvas. c. 78.5 inches x 118 inches - 2000mm x 3000
This relatively short, but important era of Russian Modern Abstract Art is generally to be later known
as ‘constructivism’ – A mode of abstract art which generally was created with the ambition to serve the
proletariat. Every day items would be redesigned, renewed and reproduced with the total involvement by
all the avant garde artists, the ones who had dedicated themselves to the revolutionary future of Russia
of 1917. By 1920 the ‘idealistic’ revolution began to be dominated by the state. Who, like most socialistic
dogmatic ideology, wanted to control all aspects of life within the confines of its own borders. This control
also included Art. A dictate was implemented and the sterile art of Social Realism was to serve the State
(right up to the USSR implosion in 1991). Kandinsky fled to Germany and gained an influential position
at the Bauhaus. Malevich escaped jail by having friends testify (and forge documents) that he was not in
the services of enemies of the Russian State. Whereupon being released from custody he went back to
the Ukraine (from Moscow) and lived out his life painting portraits of family and landscapes. Mayakovski
committed suicide and the rest of the avant garde conformed to create exactly what the State wanted
them to create.
“...our heads are round, so that thoughts can change direction.”
Francois Marie Martinez Picadia. French painter 1879-1953)
Back in the West, around 1914 to 1918, those artists who had not willingly joined in the war, or them
that had not been enlisted against their will, fled to the safety of neutral Switzerland. A country where the
war’s protagonists could each protect their respective war chests by way of a mutual agreement. It was
in Switzerland, the land of cuckoo clocks and high flying bankers, that a few ‘immigrant’ artists created
a sort of multi-art-disciplined circus for their own and others amusement. They saw, by way of the
unfolding tragic world events, that the materialistic society had failed the world.That it was totally
corrupt and made little sense to the ordinary citizen. They believed Art should reflect the non-sensical
materialistic society by making, creating and performing non-sensical Art. It was a provocation to society
that they sought and any sort of negative, rowdy or chaotic reaction from the audience that occurred
from them being outrageous, then the more successful the Art was, or so they believed. Again the first
world war had everything to do with this art movements attitude towards art and art creation which was
transcribed as ‘anti-art’ or later in the twentieth century or as the ‘Negation’ of Art.
Marcel Duchamp, was first and foremost a painter,
who had formally created Cubistic canvas’s.
He became a convinced ‘Dadaist.’ (c.1914
onwards) And began his voyage of attempting to
purposefully antagonise the art institutions
(with reference to the now famous
Fountain- urinal signed R.Mutt of 1917).
But as is often the case, the world art
establishment simply ‘absorbed’ and ‘projected’
him to the highest art platform it could muster.
So, we assume, that he could be looked upon
and be intellectually adorned by future generations
of academics, art critical thinkers.
Perhaps this was the early beginnings of what in
part two of this feature is called art’s omega.
It is also worth noting that in 1921 Joan Miro
(1893-1983) having already had contact with his
friend and fellow artist Picasso, also had contact
with the Poet Reverdy, the new movement of
Dadaism and the Surrealists, which transformed
his paintings and led to the unique and stylised
painting we see today in national art institutions.
above: Marcel Duschamp. 1912. Title: “Le Passage de la Vierge a la Mariée” Transition of Vigin into a Bride.
535mm x 590mm - Here we see Duschamp in his Cubist frame of mind.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) New York USA.
part two omega
The 1930’s witnessed the rise of the most
radical right wing nationalist states.
In Germany the National Socialist Party
began its climb from a grouping of
disillusioned demobbed world war one
soldiers to a powerful political force backed
and supported by wealthy businessmen who
believed they could utilise this Nationalistic
trend for their own benefit. It was perhaps
the evil marketing genius of Joseph Goebels
who, encouraged by his Führer, began
systematically gathering what he called
‘degenerate’ art into a single exhibition, with
the aim to exorcise it from the new Third
Reich’s cultural dogma.
The exhibition, in an ironic way, was probably
the largest showing of abstract painting and
modernism by the greatest artists that had
ever seen the light of day. Seven hundred and
thirty works were hung to show the ‘offensive
Art’ and among the one hundred and twelve
artist that were condemned for producing
these works included: Klee, Kokoscha,
Picasso, Beckmann, Max Ernst, Kirschner,
Nolde, Kandinsky, Grosz, Dix and Chagall to
mention just a few.
Perversely, over 2000 visitors a day queued
up to view the Art, with a total audience of
over 20,000 by the end of the exhibition.
It was perhaps the most popular art exhibition
that had been negatively promoted by any
The effect of the Fascist movement (also in
Italy and Spain) encouraged a sort of exodus
of artists from Europe to the USA during the
second world war. The Armoury show of 1913
a decade or more earlier, had seen a total
audience of 100,000 visitors, this was where
Alfred Stieglitz had unveiled Cubism, (Picasso
and Matisse), to the American Public and
American artists, that had paved the way for
European abstract painters to be welcomed
by the artists and the art institutions of the
USA from 1937 to 1944. This development
contributed to the massive influence, of
what we now know as, American Abstract
Expressionism, on the painters of Europe
after the second world war and up to our own
“ Before discussing the american abstract expressionist flowering, I would to highlight a painting
which from my own personal standpoint, is one of the most important abstract works created in
the Western Civilisation during the twentieth Century and as yet, and in my opinion only,
still unsurpassed in the current century.” Denis Taylor Editor.
The painting was a commission by the Spanish Republican Government for the Spanish
Pavilion of the Paris international show of 1937. It was awarded in January (1937) to their most
famous Son - Pablo Picasso. In April of the same year the German air force bombed a Bask
village (in support of Franco’s Nationalistic forces fight in the Spanish Civil war).
The destruction and death toll was published as photographic and written reports by the
Ce Soir and L’Humanite journals.
Picasso chose this tragic event as his subject using the photographs as motivation but drawing
from his paintings of the previous two decades for style and application of paint. He instinctively
went for a monotone and lined tonal finish, having experimented with colour and forms in some
fifty studies prior to its painting. His artist comparion, Dora Marr, also worked on the canvas.
The painting, on its completion measured:11.5 feet x 25 .5 feet - 3493mm x 7766 mm.
It was entitled ‘Guernica’ (named after the village that was bombed).
The painting was not greeted with overwhelming delight by the Spanish authorities at the time,
however this work has become a sort of iconic symbol of the barbarity of war.
And it stands, even today, as a constant reminder of the consequences to them that choose all
out war as an answer to solving problems between Nations. A copy was installed at the United
Nations Assembly hall which was covered by a curtain when Colin Powell announced to the
world in 2003, that the USA (and allies) had declared War on the (Hussein). Government of
Iraq and would attack within days of the announcement. The image that lay behind Powell, was
muted by a veil of blue cloth, had it not been nullified, that declaration probably could not have
been made, especially in the place that was specifically created to keep the peace by negotiation
and the power of the unity of all the Nations of the world.
(note: It has since been removed from the building).
The force of that painting is, I believe, still felt today. And although I do not consider it
a masterpiece in the strict sense of the word, in strictly painting terms, it is none the less an
incredible painting that has enormous value to the future generations of humankind.
“...artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain
indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilisation
are at stake.” ...an extract from Picasso’s address to the American Artists Congress,
New York, 19 December 1937.
In the USA the artists who had fled to America to avoid the hostilities of Europe
included, Mondrian, Chagall, Dali, Ernst, Léger and Moholy-Nagy which at last had put
real human faces to the European abstract art for American artists.
The Museum of non-objective art in New York (later known as Salomon R.
Guggenheim Museum) already had displays of the work of the best (and the last) of
Monet’s water-lilies. It also had on show Matisse’s ‘Red Studio’, and a few informal
abstract Kandinsky’s. New York became the home of Hans Hoffman, an art teacher
who had personal knowledge of the development of the work by Matisse, Delauney,
Picasso and Kandinsky. Which must have contributed to the understanding of abstract
painting on the younger American generation of students at the time. (note: Mondrian
did not have a solo exhibition in the USA until after his death in 1944).
Duchamp was also to be counted in the European artist émigré mix and his influence
was heard and felt on the logical ironic conclusions of modernism in Europe.
America has seen itself become a world power in direct opposition to the Communist
desires to control the planet. Free thinking, individualism, democratic rights of the
people became its mantra in the minds and hearts of the American people.
American artists followed this mantra backed by an obsession to create an ‘American
Art’ as good, if not better, than the European established art ‘ism’s of the previous
Readers should be made aware that none of the painters who pioneered American
Abstract Expressionism were young artists. Most had been around the block a few
times and had gained their ‘skill & understanding’ by a modicum of successful
semi-abstract works and a determination to go beyond what they saw as the limitation
of their own ‘known American style’ of painting.
For example, Mark Tobey was 58 years old, Mark Rothko 45, de Kooning and
Clifford Still, 44, Arshile Gorky and Barnet Newman 43, Yves Kline was 38, with
Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell the youngest at 35 years old.
Of these outstanding artists probably the most known works among
contemporary painters today is Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
There have been volumes written about these two artists alone and most of the
books on them have been well read in most countries of the world.
Their methods and meanings behind their work probably needs no long-winded
explanations in this feature. Suffice it to outline the base lines and try to explain
how, in my view, painting became side lined in favour of other modes of Art.
Left: Pollock #1 ‘Number 1” 1948 (68 inches x 104inches – 1730mm x 2650mm) above:
Mark Rothko - One of the many ‘expressions’ works.
Mondrian: “Broadway Boogie Woogie” 1942-1943. 50 inches x 50 inches- 1270mm x 1270mm.
In the war years, Mondrian, immortalised New Yorks architecture and street grid system in
his painting “Broadway Boogie Woogie” between 1942 and1943.
It was the first time he had varied his system (pattern) of painting and it could have led to
more variations, but he died a year later. Léger, had seemingly gone back to figuration of
a sort by 1948 or 1949. Jackson Pollock had painted the now renown large canvas
“# one” and was headed towards a dead end where his idiom could go no further (this also
happened to other artists with limited idioms including Mark Rothko). Cubism had passed
into the territory of the Art Museum and the Art History books. It was in this era of the world
where there was an uneasy feel that the end (of the world) was nigh. Nuclear war was
the biggest fear, especially in the USA and also in Europe. Against this invisible fearful
environment the pioneer American artists of abstract expression gathered themselves to
discuss what mattered the most in their art (and life). It turned out to be their inner feelings
about the human conditions of love, hate, fear, spirituality and the unknown.
They turned to an ‘unspoken’ belief system that hovered on the edges between Judeo/
Christian/Buddhist/Jung-ism inclinations and atheism, but never bowing to either one of
those dogmas per sé.
Barnet Newman made his breakthrough with paintings that were colour fields broken by
a stripe, or caesura. His thinking with this a break, or a caesura, represented light breaking
through a dark space, perhaps just like the flash of a bomb going off ? But his hope was to
imply peace or some miraculous saviour appearing in the light. Clifford Still went further in
1949 by rejecting art that could resemble anything at all. His paintings of bright primary colours
were overlaid by incidental patches of black, giving the impression of torn or old posters that
had been affected by a traumatic environmental incident. Mark Rothko (from 1947 to 1958)
had reached his idealistic tonalities. He created these by layer upon layer of turpentined
thinned oils using a basic three part oblong colour field system. Rough around the edges, each
panel were surrounded by a neutral colour. It gave the sensation that panels were floating in
space. This gave the viewer an almost transcendental feel and that the work was imbued by
the spirit of mother nature or the creator of the universe. The common thread of these works
was size, and it mattered. ‘Big’ was essential for this sort of work for it to work as Art.
When exhibiting these huge paintings it was when the viewers stood in front of them that
they would physically feel how ‘awe inspiring’ the paintings really were, that was the artists
intent in creating exceptionally large canvases. Newman insisted that the audience should
stand very close to his work, to enable the power of the colour and the caesura to envelope
the viewer. This kind of Art demanded both intellectual and a spiritual awareness by
concentrated ‘looking’ – It was insistent on deep meditation and inward examination of self
and soul ‘demand’ on the audience that younger artists decided to seek another path.
above: Mark Rothko: Tate: ©Kate Rothko- Chrostopher Rothko. DACS 2017.
Although the colour field painterly abstraction art continued with Ellsworth Kelly (1965) and
Jules Olitski through to and past 1966, it was at this juncture artists like Frank Stella, Morris
Louis and Kenneth Noland began introducing new elements into the abstractionists makeup.
Shaped canvases, figure painting and identifiable or implied human forms was slowly
returning to painting. In Europe ‘versions’ of this kind of more traditional artistic line of work
had been seen to be produced by artists like Nicolas de Stael (figure by the Sea 1952) and
Francis Bacon ‘Study for a crouching Nude’ 1952. And later Rodger Hilton (October 1956).
Nicolas de Stael. “Figure by the sea.” 1952. Oil on canvas.
63.5 inches x 51 inches -1615mm x 1295mm - ©Kunstsammlung, Nordhein-Westfalen.
William De Kooning who had benefited from Pollock ‘opening the door’ to abstract
expressionism’s acceptance and subsequent reverent opinion of it, introduced the world to
his ‘Women’ paintings. It was these works that broke the seriousness and saw a ‘known’
artist re-introduce figuration into abstract painting. The reception was not really appreciated
that much at first. People viewed these images of ‘women’ as crude and vulgar. And it was
fear of that audience reaction that had made de Kooning hesitant in finishing them, let alone
exhibiting them. He considered abandoning them as worthless, had it not been for the art
historian Meyer Shapiro, who judged the unfinished work worthy of completion, they would
not have seen the light of day otherwise (almost the same situation as Picasso’s painting Les
Demoiselles d’Avignon over four decades earlier).
William de Kooning. “Woman 1” 1950-1952. Oil on canvas. 75.7inches x 58 inches
1923mm x 1473mm - ©collection. Modern Museum of Art, NYC, USA.
De Kooning, could never understand why the audience did not find the ‘Women’ paintings
‘funny.’ As that was how he viewed them and the mood in which he painted them.
But- Abstract Art was not supposed to be humorous – especially within the intellectual circles
of America and Europe, at that time.
It was this very human approach to art that saw de Kooning’s art cross over the generation
gap and into the 1960’s - which began to’ bed-in’ humour, light heartedness and put fun into
creating abstract or realistic art. The new generation of artists suggested that if the world
really was going to be brought to a sudden end by a nuclear war, then it would be logical to
ensure you had a good time before everything was blown away and destroyed for ever...
...so, why take Art or life that seriously?
Robert Rauschenberg had already (by
1955) began to experiment with what
he called ‘combine-paintings’, which
went some way to remove ‘actual
painting’ from abstract art.
He went further along that path in 1958
when he created two paintings using
‘montage’ (harking back to synthetic
Also in 1958 Jasper Johns created his
now famous, ‘Flags’, which was a total
removal from ‘abstract painting,’ as
such and a journey into realism with
a twist of a smirk on his face. In the UK,
Richard Hamilton also used ‘montage’
come ‘collage’ for his..”what is it that
makes today’s homes so different, so
appealing? A poster for the
“This is Tomorrow,” exhibition.
All this was leading to the advertising
type world of images - a world that Andy
Warhol would rise from and form his
‘Factory.’ Pop Art supplanted abstract
painting as the preferred ‘hang-out’ for
the new generation as a symbol of
a new free and liberated lifestyle.
Optical Art (c.1963-67), which many
may see as abstract painting, I think
is really in a classification of its
own, as was its following movement
‘minimalism’. Artists like Bridget
Riley and Victor Vasarely (optical
or kinetic art) being the best known
and Agnes Martin probably the best
lead minimalist artist. But these were
peripheral movements and the main
thrust of abstraction expressionism had
Rauschenberg - Bed- 1955 -75
inches x 31.5 inches x 6.5 inches-
1900mm x x 800mm x 165mm.
One of his ‘combine’ paintings.
The new art of the 60’s onwards, in some strange twist of history, came from a reformed and
intellectualised radical form of Dadaism (from 1914). Marcel Duchamp who was still around,
and was seen (righly or wrongly) as the main spokesman for ‘new-non-art.’ He encouraged that
thought, one that he had adopted as early as 1916. It became an adapted ‘idea’ that insisted that
anything and everything was Art. (Duschamp had in fact been painting all the time in secret, right
up to his death in 1968)
From around the late sixties and into the latter end of the seventies Art became exactly that:-. ‘Art
was anything’ an artist said it was.’ It was regarded as serious Art, provided it was exhibited in an
Art Gallery. Slowly, painting abstracts was not new anymore and fell by the wayside. There were of
course Painters who refused to accept that ‘paint on canvas’ was old and finished as an art form,
and carried on regardless. John Hoyland, Gillian Ayres and John Walker, were just three of many
artists that refused to capitulate to post modernism ideals and remained faithful by using paint on
canvas rather than any other contingency.
None the less, and in general, one could say that from around 1982 abstract painting had gone
from Alpha to Omega. And painting as an art form, in general, was pronounced formally ‘dead’ as
predicted in the early part 1960’s by it’s detractors and former supporters.
Alpha, a new beginning?
By the turn of the twentieth century there was a significant
uneasy feeling among creatives. Maybe it was because
the conceptual, come installation art form, had dominated
contemporary art for so long that it had reached the point
where it had become ‘institutionally-approved art.’
And therefore only represented the Conservative Art
Establishments opinion of what was contemporary art, with
nothing or little else considered as serious art.
The conventional medium of painting had not only been
ignored, but often ridiculed by Academics as ‘not a serious
choice of medium’ to create a new contemporary art work.
This was more apparent in Europe than it was in the USA.
Which had, in the main, accepted and had retained ‘painting’
on the curriculum of universities and art academies.
This wasn’t the case in Europe, especially the UK, where
slowly but surely ‘painting’ was removed not only from
Universities curriculums but also actively eradicated totally
by the new breeed of zealous art professors discouraging
students of including painting in their portfolios for year
ending assessments (some making the threat of immediate
failure if they did so). Talent, skill, colour understanding and
artistic authenticity became a thing of the past and all these
later day basic elements and knowledge for art creation using
paint as medium was declared ‘obsolete’ in favour of a Post
Modernistic approach to art where plagiarism was not only
allowed but expected and encouraged for the student
to make it part of his ‘process’.
Not every one agreed with the post-modernism dogma,
and many Artists, in general, became tired of restricting
themselves to the non-physical involvement of art creation,
mixed with the re-making of someones else’s original idea
from the recent past. And where the actual process of the
creation was secondary, or unimportant. Disillusioned with
the philosophy of post modernism and conceptualism, where
only the ‘idea’ of a work of Art was the thing that was worthy
of consideration, traditional painting became more and more
attractive to Artists once again. This was despite the uneven
handed approach to painting in the Art Education system.
Painting flourished, especially with the underground artists,
who were mostly dogged painters from the 1980’s, also the
graffiti artists. And with some help from small exhibitions by
the commercial galleries on high streets in provisional towns,
painting began to prove that it was very much alive and had
not ‘died off’ as it was predicted it would in the later stages of
the Twentieth century.
“Easel painting, like any other classic means of painting or sculpture
has served its term. Still sublime at times, it is approaching the end
of a long monopoly...”
The New Realists. End of painting predicted in 1960.
Quote from the first manifesto. Written by Pierre Restany.
“ there is no such thing as abstract painting,
everything comes from something..” Pablo Picasso
The catalyst for a figurative painting resurrection
may have come from a movement that became
known (in Europe) as the ‘Transavantgarde.’ Achille
Bonito Oliva, an Italian critic overseen the new, or
more appropriately, renewed, an art philosophy
that rejected the left wing [political] thinking and its
corresponding artistic psychoanalysis. They returned
to encouraging the use of traditional materials and
the creation of Art imbued with not only talent but
the invention of new image communication forms
or symbolic signs. They gained an international
audience in 1982 with an exhibition that was mounted
in Rome. The leading Transavantgarde artists
included Chia, Cucchi and Clemente with Baselitz
and Keifer in Germany, who are often thrown into
the mix of the artists in this re-engagement with
painting. What was also significant was that a few
artists in the USA seemed closer to the European
Transavantgarde mind set than they did to the ‘pop’
or the ‘hyper-realists’ practitioners
(for example, Julian Schnabel).
This goes to illustrate how the Art in the public
view (via media coverage), the one sanctioned and
approved by art institutions, can be misleading with
the implication that Art is binary or lineal. Most artists
know that Art is and always has been, dynamic and
multifaceted. We are only in the 17th year of a new
century, but these last seventeen years are proving
to be milestones in painting development, albeit not
to the same extent that Cubism changed how artists
think about how they could create a work of art.
The neo-expressionism of the Transavantgarde of
the 1980’s led to more and more figurative interest in
art creation. And in certain ways figurative abstract
painting has asserted itself as the popular choice of
many artists. Today figurative abstraction appears at
the forefront of recent painting. It can take the form
of abstracted human forms, landscape, emotional
or personal experiences. The resulting artworks all
carry something ‘real’ as the key element in the work
of the artist. Art for Art ‘s sake, or Art as an object in
itself is no longer the main concern.
What is apparent today is that the visual art playing
field has widened and levelled itself to be inclusive
rather than exclusive, as it was once was not so long
ago. Realism, semi-realism, abstraction in all it’s
forms, gestural expression, geometric formal, and
informal and combination abstraction (objectivity
mixed with non-objectivity), photographic-painting
montages, video, digital art and graffiti, all have an
active role to play in the kaleidoscope of todays
visual art world. The whole history of art and art
ism’s seems to have merged into an array of visually
stimulating and exciting art, but only new in the sense
that they are created in the ‘here and now’ and reflect
that ‘here and now’ – however, it is perhaps a more
short sighted view of culture that is held today than it
was in the middle of the twentieth century.
For me, as a painter, it is an exciting period and
like many creatives today, I feel the freedom and
the challenge that the choice of medium, method
of painting and varied subject matter represents.
The ‘outlets’ (galleries) for this eclectic view of Art
is also far more receptive and widespread than one
would imagine. Today independent Artists can hire
spaces in purpose made pop-up type art galleries
which cater specifically for independent artists
shows. Many painters are grouping themselves
together as ‘gallery-studios’ or as a gallery artists run
co-operatives with varied types of work exhibited,
who pool their finances to ensure each individual
exhibition gains the right amount of marketing and
public exposure needed for reasonable success.
Private commercial galleries are starting to work
together to share ‘artists’ ideas and organise single
theme shows to encourage audiences to travel from
one exhibition in one gallery, then onto another with
the same theme. The future for commercial galleries,
it seems, rests in a multifaceted genre of art rather
than the singular specialised favoured choice of
art genre of the last century. They are beginning to
co-operate with each other, rather than stick to the
‘competitor’ mentality of the past.
It is perhaps the ‘competition’ from the www that has
encouraged the high street gallerists along this
The www has been a major contributor to the
‘democratising’ of Art, especially in painting,
with abstract paintings now gathering as much
acceptance and popularity as the traditional
landscape or nostalgia art has enjoyed over the
last decades. Art, and painting in particular, is
unpredictable, it should surprise us and it should
never be announced, at least before it is finished.
As this special feature is all about abstract art I can
think of no better way to round it off than showing the
work of the artists selected to be included in it.
The artists vary in background, nationality and
attitudes to Art. One or two are very well known, one
or two are very accomplished and one or two will be
new names to the reader of this magazine.
All of the artists who have agreed to have their work
included have a commonality, they are painters who
tend to create abstract work rather than absolute
traditional figurative paintings.
The twelve artists featured, each with one, two or
three examples of their work, and a brief note by
myself about them and their art, may give the reader
a glimpse of what is happening with the development
of figurative abstract paining today. I have also
included some paintings of my own and welcome
reader comments and critic, as no doubt the other
artists featured will also will welcome your thoughts
on their work.
Denis Taylor, artist and editor, painters Tubes
Photography of John Walker, above,
courtesy of Alexandre Gallery, NYC, USA.
I first read about John Walker’s work in the early editions of the now highly regarded
book on art, ‘The Story of Modern Art.’ by Norbert Lynton. He made a comment about
John Walker’s paintings which (in1989) gave me the encouragement to continue with
painting as my chosen Art form ...Lynton wrote; “John Walker
disposes hard and soft areas of colour, mists and textures, and hinted-at structures
over broad surfaces as though to champion the right to go painting when many others
think of painting as an old habit that long ago lost it validity....”
Here, Lynton was talking about the series of work ‘Conservatories’ painted around
1978- 1979, which were quite large canvases 80 inches x 60 inches - 2032mm x
1524mm) a format John seems to prefer.
John was born in Birmingham, England and was educated at Birmingham Art School
and the British School in Rome and the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris.
He was artist in residence at Oxford University (1977-1979) and at the Monash
University in Melbourne, Australia. He also taught art at the Royal College of Art in
London, UK. He represented Britian in the Vienice Biennale and after moving over
to the USA received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982. His solo exhibitions include;
Museum of Modern Art, NYC, the Philips Collection, Washinton DC, the Tate Gallery,
London, the Hayward Gallery, London, the Kunstverein, Hamburg Germany and the
Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. It’s an impressive and
encouraging list for any painter that points to a validation of a ‘belief in Painting’
as an Art form today.
Since around 1992, John has been teaching in Boston University’s Graduate
Program in painting and sculpture and no doubt his enthusiasm is still being
transferred to painters of the future. His current work, (see next pages) continues his
exploration using abstract forms with definitive subject ideas.
Oil on Canvas. Painted 2017.
84 inches x 66 inches - 2133mm x 1676mm
©John Walker 2017
Title: Red Tide
Oil on Canvas. Painted 2017.
84 inches x 66 inches - 2133mm x 1676mm
©John Walker 2017
John Walker is represented by: Alexandre Fine Art Inc./Alexandre Gallery 724 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor ,New
York 10019 alexandregallery.com Current exhibition of John’s new work is at the Seal Point,
Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland, Maine, USA.
It is running from today through to Sunday, October 29, 2017
Kayla is a Fine Art lecturer at Massachusetts College of Art and
an artist of some note. Her work is varied in size but seems to
hold ‘the naural world’ firmly in its grasp.
“Helsinki Curvel,” seen here on the right hand page, is
perhaps significant for her. Her mother was from Finland, with
her father originating from Iran. She was born in the USA.
For me when I first viewed the work, the painting immediately
said Helsinki Harbour. I am very famiiar with Helsinki,
having visited the City many times over the years.
The four separate canvas’s positioned in this way gives an air
of a strange ‘unified-dislocation’ of the reflections of the sea and
the buildings that reflect onto it, is a lasting memory of
Helsinki of my own.
Her personal translations of feelings into ‘colour’ also
delight with the light touch of her brush and colour application.
Personally, I find her paintings peaceful, secure and showing an
artist who is dedicated to her chosen medium of expression.
Kayla has had a number of awards and residencies,
(The Joan Mitchell Residency New Orleans, for example) and
has received scholarships and grants from 2008 onwards.
Other activies include judging for the Boston Young
Contemporary Exhibition, the Rhode Island Council for the Arts
Award in 2009, and the Harvard University Reflection in Action.
(judging). Her work is in a whole host of Museums, Embassies
and Universities and private collections. She has exhibited in
group and had solo shows from 1998 onwards.
visit www.kaylamohammadi.com - to view more of her work
Helsinki - Curvel
96 inches x 72 inches (total mounted)
2438mm x 183mm
‘ Ochid and Jade’ 48 inches x 60 inches - 1219mm x 1524mm ©KaylaMohammadi
‘ Yeloow Landscape ll ’ 48 inches x 60 inches - 1219mm x 1524mm ©KaylaMohammadi
Lisa achieved an MA in English and taught language and was the
director of studies for languages for four years at the MLS,
Marburg, Germany. The reason for conveying this information is to
emphasise her natural tendency for investigating the complexities of
communication and how visual communication has the possibility to
short-cut language in an immediately understood visual message.
In 2008, Lisa decided to spent time in the USA and she left Germany
which coincided with her decision to become an independent full time
visual artist. Her concerns are the seeing’process of a human, which
and in her words: “ ..are not limited to the physical or the bio-chemical
process of the eye, but seeing also has an emotional and intellectual
dimension involving the whole range of perception.”
It is a line of thinking, especially when creating a painting, that I am in
full sympathy with. Her work therefore reflects ‘reality’ but abstracted,
modified and simplified by use of shapes of colour. The SunCity series
of paintings are more ‘memories’ of her time and experiences in the
USA (Sacremento) than they are of the actual physical places where
she lived for a number of years.
I am to meet up with Lisa in London (September 2017) where she is
mounting an exhibiion entitled “from the Edge of the Mind” at the
Espacio Artists Co-operative Gallery, it is a meeting that will form one of
a series of interviews in a future edition of Tubes and one I very much
look forward to.
above: SunSity #13 - Acrylic on Paper. 210mm x 290mm 8.26 inches x 11.5 inches.
above: SunSity #2 - Acrylic on wood panel. 800mm x 800mm 31.5 inches x 31.5 inches.
what the artist had to say about the series of paintings ‘SunCity’.
“...SunCity is an ongoing series of abstract cityscapes.
Technically, they are multi-layered paintings of shrill yellowness layered over black strokes and
interspersed by lines and fields that are suggestive of architectural structures. As all my work,
they are an exploration in the realm of emotion and perception both of which are inextricably
linked. The series is certainly inspired by my life in California where I worked as an artist for more
than two years. SunCity strives to capture an urban environment suffused with intense light as
a visceral - not merely a visual - experience. Disassociating of form and color is a means to come
as closely as possible to the core of this experience.
I started the series after my return from the US to Europe. So my memory and artistic imagination
have developed a dynamic of their own. From my artistic point of view it clearly reveals what
neuroscientists now believe: we do not retrieve the original memory of a particular experience or
event; instead we retrieve our last version of this memory. Our memories are therefore altered
slightly each time we remember them. This is an absolutely exciting thought for me as a visual
artist when looking at and talking about my work.”
starting a new ‘reflection’ painting at
Studio 5 Sweden 2015
As this feature is about figurative abstraction and how that came about, I will simply
relate my own experiences and how I dealt with one aspect of it and my attempts of
trying to find a solution to the challenge I had set for myself.
My serious interest in figuration and abstract integration began around 1986. I’d been
working on a painting that set that path for me for when I later established a studio in
Greece. The challenge of a successful canvas which unified abstraction with figuration
was not a new concept, but up to 1986 no one had really achieved it.
And not being one to shy away from a challenge, I took it on.
For me music has always played an important role in painting, and I know that is true
of many painters. It is not to ‘simulate’ notes with colour, as Kandisky wanted to perfect,
but to seperate the conscious from the subconscious and make a barier where the
two mind sets could not interfere with each other. I found this a useful methodology to
create reality paintings and later abstract works.
Having also found a controlling ‘third conscious’ assistant, I began (in 1990) with a
fifteen metre set of 5 canvas’s with ‘Greek-Dancing’ as the subject line. My environemt
suited this perfectly as my studios were then located on a small island in the Saronic
Gulf, (Aegina island Greece).
After three years of solid painting the ‘Dance’ canvas’s I had to finally admit to myself
that the self imposed ‘challenge’ had beaten me.
©denistaylor “Stoned” ©1990-1993. 1500mm x 1000mm. Private Collection. Sweden
One morning I decided to rid myself of the burden and I attacked all the 5 canvas’s with
a stanley knife, slicing them all into small pieces. I found myself cutting out specific segments and
shapes, especially the human figures and the colour shapes of the background. I then set out a new
canvas (1500mm x 1000mm) and started to arrange the pieces on this new canvas.
I allowed the shapes to form themselves into a sort of pattern, before too long I could see what was
happening. Later in the day I painted over the ‘cut & stuck’ canvas with oils, enamel and wood dye’s.
Adding new figures (see above - human forms to the bottom section).
After a short while the new painting from the cut Dance works was finished and I felt I had reached my
goal. The next stage was to ‘simpilfy’ the process with new paintings, using vivid modern colours.
‘reflections series began in 2005 through to 2015. (UK and Swedish studios)
In 2005 to 2008, I had a temporary studio in my home town of Manchester, UK. The studio was located
in an old Cotton Mill, next to a canal, one which I walked the paths of frequently whilst thinking
about my paintings. It was the Reflections of the old Mills in the Canal that provided me with an ideal
theme for a series of paintings using vivid colours, abstract form and figurative reality as one
integrated painting, which I had been working on since creating the painting ‘Stoned’ in 1993.
There are now around 30 examples of ‘Reflections’, here you can three of them. (in the above
photograph and below, both are 1000mm x 1000mm oil on linen. And one to the right in the
photograph above measures 1500mm x 1000mm, oil on canvas.
All images ©DenisTaylor1986-2017.
“same as it ever was” - ©RiccardoVitiello
Born in Tuscany, Italy in 1974, Riccado tells the world on his website that he is
a self taught artist. A term I personally think should be outlawed from use by artists.
He is in fact a natural born Artist, as many have been in the past and are today. He first
experimented with video art and creating abstracts images employing photography as his
main medium of choice. Of late he has began creating paintings. He said to me that it is
‘colour’ that draws him into creating art and the medium is irrelevent, although it is clear
that ‘hand-made’ art is in fact the most suited to his sensibilty. These two examples remind
me of Mark Tobey and maybe the early work of Jackson Pollock.
I am looking forward to seeing more of his work (in the flesh) when I visit Italy next year.
“the arrival at the Ghost Circus” - ©RiccardoVitiello
above: “Frenzied Life” 650mm x 500mm. Oil on paper. ©jeanmirre
Jean wanted to be a poet, he travelled from his
native home in France to Ireland to study poetry.
He discovered that ‘visual-poetry’ was better
suited to him and began a voyage of discovery
through an eclectic stylized range of paintings.
This varied from miniature painting in
traditional ways to testing the new digital
paintings that embraced the rock and roll scene
of ‘yester-year.’ His current work is more
concentrated and immediate. The knowledge
and experiences of his long history of making art
is clearly shown in these two works.
Jean has exhibited extensiveley with admirers
and collectors of his work in many countries
including, the USA, Japan, Brazil, Belgium,
England, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, and his
home country, France.
left: “Serenade” 650mm x 500mm. oil on paper.
A deicated artist and art organiser, Steven is the
Director of Cross Street Art studios, a non-profit arts
When I walked into his studio (left photo) the first
thought I had was ‘constructivist’ as the image and
shapes had me harking back to that period of Art.
Looking further I came around to seeing other
elements, the natural world and the man made world
sort of collided with each other. Steven’s paintings
are the sort that need time (and space) to ponder
and in doing so, enjoy.
Steven works with oil. acrylic, masking tape and
other materials, i.e. bits of wire. Again his idea is
to some how illustrate how the City and the natural
world can work against each other, if we allow them
too. Perhaps this is the intention of the work to nudge
us into having greater care and understanding about
the environment we make for ourselves in the future.
“alternative pathways” ©StevenHeaton2017
“a time presents itself” ©StevenHeaton2017
Here is what Steven has to say about his work;
“ my work presents an alternative view of the natural and chemical landscape as the lines of
communication begin to blur, factories rust against an autumnal background,
and nature begins to creep into dominance when regular human use declines.”
“ghosts of departed quantaties.” ©StevenHeaton2017
David, is a painter who loves texture. We talked about his process a few weeks ago in his
studio, which is part of the Cross Street Studios in Standish, Wigan UK..
He made a point of the ‘metal-sink’ in the corner of his studio as an essential part of his tools.
He prepares his canvas with large swathes of colour and then works the image over and over
by scrubbing and washing it and repainting it until he ‘sees’ what he is looking for.
The image is definately ‘a natue’ scene - maybe - but it is one ‘arrived at’ rather than
a place he has painted from reality or that even actually exists. The painting shown here is
David Stanley is an established artist with many awards. He has exhibited in USA, Germany
and the UK from 1995 onwards. His work can be seen at the exhibition of Cross Street
Artists exhibition at the Atkinson Galleries, Southport, current show until 27th Aug.
above: Delhi Chandni Chowk. (old market) India. 26 inches x 21 inches. 660mm x 533mm Acrylic on canvas.
I was fortunate to meet up with Colin recently at his studios in
Manchester earlier this summer, where I saw his some of his recent work.
Colin has been paintings for over three decades and his love of nature
manifests itself with his other passion, which is climbing mountains.
Sydney Nolan (Australian artist) that gave him the inspiration to utilise
nature as the backdrop for a narrative within a painting.
In 2011 he embarked on a four year project which was to paint Manchester
from the tallest buildings in the City. His objective was to identify the
common ground between natural landscape painting and the built
environment. The completed works were exhibited at the Contemporary Six
Gallery in 2015. This show led to a new commission from Simpson Haugh &
Partners (architects) who asked Colin to record ‘visually’ the construction of
a new building (in central Manchester) from start to finish.
His thoughts about the commission are expressed here;-
“ the fast pace of construction changes the identity of the location steadily
and with a certainty you don’t experience when painting the natural
landscape. This commission offered the opportunity to bookend that process
in one distinct body of work. For a landscape painter I think that’s
a huge priviledge”
image ©Colin Taylor 2015-2017
above: Manchester-Liverpool Road Inter-City. acylic on canvas. 24 inches x 31 inches 600mm x 787mm
Sky Blue Cut Edge’ 18 inches x 24 inches. 458mm x 600mm
Acrylic, pastel, card relief and charcoal on linen. all images ©Colin Taylor
The two paintings (shown above) were born out of the commission.
Colin produced a number of works which he experimented with by fixing ‘cut’ card
onto the canvas. For Colin this is something new and he sees it as a way of
delineating form on the work. On a few works he placed the ‘cut’ card and
extended them off the edge off the canvas’s and the painted image. It’s a method
he intends to pursue. For me, this could be related to both Synthehic Cubism and
Mondrian’s ‘thinking’ about the painting becoming ‘part of the wall’ and not an object
placed upon it.
The paintings above were part of the ‘New Lines in Space’ exhibition at the
Contemporary Six Gallery in Manchester in June 2017.
Mike Weeden began painting in a serious way only ten
years or so ago. His childhood artistic talent promised
much and he was encouraged to enrol at art school, but
he decided to join the Royal Navy and see the world.
He first exhibited in West Yorkshire which encouraged
him to take up Art on a full time basis around 2007.
Both he and his family moved to Scotland, which gave
him a new fresh approach to his art.
He has seen some modicum of success over the years,
with his work being acquired for corporate collections.
In 2011 he became a member of the Scottish Society of
Artists. His work was also exhibited at Todmorden Fine
Art Gallery, which is run by the renown artist agent and
Gallerist, Dave Gunning.
For me, some of his work has the look and feel of
a James Ensor painting with a dash of Max Beckmann
thrown in for good measure. Some of his earlier work is
classic figurative, but here (to the left) we can see him
venturing more into abstraction and a looser application
of paint. I look forward to viewing more.
all images ©Mike Weeden 2017
digital painting example
Hans works from his home studio n Arnhem, Holland,
Currently he is experimenting with digital painting combining
this with his experiences using ‘caustic’ paintings of a semisculptural’
nature using a variety of textural techniques.
His ‘effects’ and ‘textures’ interest began whilst studying in
Paris in 1975 when he poured nail polish over a piece of paper
and became surprised how it maintained its colour depth and
He now combines ‘nail-polish’ with acrylic, varnish and cement
to discover new effects He decided, not without a smile, that
this type of ‘painting’ should be called ‘Polishpainting.’
His paintings are mainly abstract-figurative and to my mind he
shows the influences of Paul Klee compositional wise, mixed
with a touch of texture not unlike what Jean Dubuffet
image ©Hans Reefman 2017
Shahin de Heart
Lanscape & language series -160mm x 2000mm oil on canvas
Shahin is motivated by poetry.
The paintings made with broad gestural abstraction have a lyrical
sensibility about them. I have only seen her work on the www, but I have
promised myself to see the work in real life when next I visit Germany.
Shahin was born in Tehran. Her earlier studies were in
portraiture between 1968 and1971 at Ron Baskerville Studios in
Manchester, UK. She settled in Germany where she studied visual arts
at the University of Aachen followed by a spell in Cologne studying art
history, archeology and anthropology.
She first established her studios in 1980 before moving to
Dusseldorf and then Remscheid-Lennep, Germany, where she now
lives and works.
all images ©Shahin de Heart 2017
Lanscape & language series - 1200mm x 1000mm oil on canvas
Shahin de Heart ...in the artists own words...
”...Sustained by the words of the Persian poet and mystic Hafez (1325-1390 )
I have painted my dynamic pictures. Persian calligraphy and Western expressive art come
together movingly. My pictorial painting convey my message of a better united world without
frontiers. With the series “Landscape and Language” I have combined my abstract writing pictures
with abstract different landscapes. It is very important for me that these pictures do not look like a
collage. They have not any border and are always three dimensional. My interest in this subject
was awoken, as I noticed Persian words and notions in other languages and countries.”
Shahin de Heart 2017
all images ©Shahin de Heart 2017
159 Bethnal Green Road London E2 7DG
in the summer
Selects (Group) Exhibition
July12th through to August 12th 2017
12 Elm Street Rockland, Maine. 04841 USA
painters Tubes magazine - special summer feature- issue #4
ABSTRACT - alpha - omega - abstract
a comprehensive historical feature and Art examples of twelve
abstract contemporary painters