An exhibition catalogue that marks the first museum survey of von Heyl’s work, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, in 2011. Von Heyl is a wonderfully expressive, collage based, abstract painter, who intentionally never repeats herself. The illustrations are presented in beautiful, large fold out pages. Along with the illustrations, it also includes short essays and an interview with the artist, my favourite form of art reading. In the interview she states that, like many abstract artists, she is interested in creating a “new image that stands for itself as a fact.” She shares her philosophy that she is “setting the stage for concentration and inspiration”. Layering is her main way ‘to control and manipulate the image’. Von Heyl is primarily a gestural abstract painter. Her use of colour, she explains as ‘a cosmetic after thought’ after having put down a skeleton of gestures that I have then fleshed out through intervention, obliteration, construction, destruction …” She tells us that abstract art should ask questions, not just make a statement. Interesting. Another text, Charline von Heyl: Now or Else (Kerber Art, 2012) provides access to another whole collection of paintings.
Tapies From Within is an exhibition catalogue for a retrospective of Antoni Tapies’ work curated by Vincente Todoli and exhibited in Barcelona in 2013. Tapies was a Spanish painter that I have been aware of since the 1980’s. He thinks that art is to be contemplated ‘as a vehicle of the rapport with mystery, the forces of the universe and nature.’ He insisted on being free to choose whatever materials he wanted. His emphasis was on the nature of his materials, on the irrational and on chance. I enjoy his work with fabric and plastic; some of the other assemblages and constructions not so much. Trousers On a Stretcher is hilarious. This book includes several essays by Tapies outlining his philosophy of modern art and mysticism, symbolism and analyzing a work of art. Google Images provides installation views which make the show more interesting.
Sometimes on our artistic journey we are startled to find that someone has been there before us. Rats and Damn! When I was reading Manzoni, a book about Piero Manzoni by Germano Celant, I was thrilled and dismayed to see that my own work was getting dangerously close to resembling some of Manzoni’s Achromes, which were produced in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I think he was a terrific artist – thoughtful, amusing and experimental. It was implied that he was inspired to create his wrinkled, folded canvases by the lush fabric representations in baroque sculptures; I have been inspired by fabric and plastic sheets in general. Celant’s book starts with an excellent essay on the development of the vocabulary of abstract art in Europe – the ‘logic’ painters as opposed to the action painters. Materiality was very important. I can relate to this: “…producing art means feeling one’s own corporeality, manifesting it and staging it.” From Manzoni: “Are not expression, fantasy, and abstraction empty fictions? There is nothing to be said – there is only to be, to live.” Lots of photos, a chronology of Manzoni’s very short life, and the artist’s writings make this a fine book. So now I know not to take my art down the road of the heavily folded, wrinkled canvas, but there are still lots of things to experiment with acrylic skins and plastic.
Gerhard Richter: Forty years of Painting by Robert Storr is the exhibition catalogue for a MOMA retrospective of Richter’s work, covering the years 1960-2000. Lots of good illustrations of his wide-ranging oeuvre – portraits, landscapes, photography, photo realism, and abstractions. The book concludes with a very interesting interview with the artist who was raised in East Berlin, where he muses on his place in art history and on the act of painting. He has some very interesting things to say about the viewer of art and abstract art. He hates Kandinsky, for example, and collage. Gerhard Richter Painting is a documentary made 10 years after the MOMA catalogue. It covers his whole body of work including archival interviews but concentrates on his squeegee created abstract paintings, which I love.
This well illustrated Lawrence Carroll catalogue with essays was written to accompany an exhibition of his work by the Australian government in Venice in 2008. I am always interested in learning from contemporary abstract artists better ways to organize my own work. Lawrence Carroll’s work is layered, oil on canvas strips and segments, painted light, a variation of white on white. His layers are stitched together, overlain and joined together to form a complex monochromatic surface. The paintings have a great deal of presence and his variations with a limited vocabulary is impressive.
I once saw some small Ryman paintings in New York. They were simply gesso applied to cardboard and I was very impressed with them. Over the past 3 years I have started to work with white and lightness, so I decided to look into the work of Robert Ryman. This book is the exhibition catalogue for a show at MOMA and the Tate in 1993. I loved the Surface Veil paintings. It was exciting to see that Lasker has brought forward Ryman`s awkward, thick brush strokes. What did I learned from Robert Ryman? Ryman experimented with materials, like waxed paper and thin sheets of fiberglass, for their own sake – not to reference something else. So I am encouraged to keep experimenting with skins, plastics and acrylic mediums. Keep it light. Aim to make the painting about itself. White really is a beautiful colour.
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramović. When I saw the documentary The Artist is Present, I though ‘Wow – now there’s a great artist.’ I was very happy to learn that Abramovic had recently released a memoir – Walk Through Walls. This is quite possibly the best biography I have ever read. Her life has been fantastic! Her life, her parents’ lives, Yugoslavia, her travels, her performances, and her jokes! – just one amazing event and story after another. Her voice in telling these stories is captivating and very amusing. What did I learn from Abramovic? So much – how to be steadfast and not wimp out, be brave with your vision, use what you’ve got, and invest in real estate if you can. I certainly intend to take in more performance art events.