I visited Tate Modern and took photos of what caught my eye with my not so fancy mobile camera, so it’s just for a reference. Nevertheless what interested me are the behind the scenes concepts, processes as well as materials and techniques used by the artists, which I took notes of. This is a small research on working with restricted means, which brings up the meaning of an artwork and its dimensionality and generates an emotional or spiritual response in the viewer. Most works belong to the abstract expressionism trend.
All information sourced from Tate Modern’s synopses.
Thomas Hirschhorn (1957, born Switzerland, works France)
Known for his sculptures and installations made from everyday materials such as cardboard, plastic and paper, bound together with brown packing tape. This work was originally part of an exhibition called Concretions, a term from geology and medicine that suggests the gradual growth of a solid mass. Hirschhorn related the theme to a broader social and spiritual petrification. Here the faces of mannequins seem to be emerging from – or submerged into- larger biomorphic forms.
Maria Helena Vleira da Silvia (1908-1992, born Portugal, worked France, Brazil)
Vleira da Silvia was a key figure within the field of expressive abstraction in post-war Paris. however her work always retained a strong basis of reference to the visible world. Many of her paintings depict labyrinthine interior spaces, with complex or multiple lines of perspective. The elaborate mosaic and tiled surfaces recall the domestic architecture of her native Portugal.
Leon Kossof (1926, born and works in Britain)
Kossof developed a manner of painting with exceptionally thick paint which is deposited on the board in places almost untouched, giving a sense of three dimensional form.
Iraqi Kurdish writer and a member of the creative writing group Write to Life .
Many years ago I slept in my wheelchair and dreamed of thick colours melting with my bod. I saw my eyes, my face and my head, every part of my body was melting, disappearing into a painting. I wasn’t concerned or scared because I knew that it was just a dream, but then the dream felt very long and I couldn’t get out of it. I was trapped inside and no one could wake me. Since then I travel with a wheelchair in my dreams. I am just colours without a body. I dream inside my dream. I sleep with colours, dream with colours, fly with colours. They help me find continuity in this dream, in this life.
Philip Guston 1913-1980
A dark shape suggestive of a head, emerges from a grey background. Guston referred to this and other painting made in the early 1960s as ‘dark pictures’ and also as ‘erasures’. As he explained: I use white pigment and black pigment. The white pigment is used to erase the black I don’t want and so becomes grey. Working with these restricted means as I do now, other things open up which are unpredictable, such as atmosphere, light illusion – elements which do seem relevant to the image but have nothing to do with colour.
Barnett Newman 1905 – 1970
‘Moment’ is one of Newman’s first paintings to include a vertical band of light, a band which he would soon call a ‘zip’. He said that in these early works he was manipulating colour and space to fight the chaos that existed before the beginning of the universe. The title refers to the moment of creation and possibly a moment of arrival for art. Abstract expressionism artists were aware that they were embarking on a series of radical new approaches to painting.
Jackson Pollock ‘The Sublime Now’ (1949)
In this text he argues that the ‘subjective abstraction’ of modern American painting was a contemporary counterpart to the idea of the sublime. For aesthetic theorists of the 18th and 19th centuries, the sublime was formlessness, immensity, intense light or darkness, terror, solitude and silence experienced in nature, yet it also offered the solace of transcendence, an art in which one could lose oneself. Such ideas persisted in early twentieth-century landscape painting, especially among the artists associated with expressionism, for whom intense experience emerged in enriched colour. Yet for Newman, a generation later, abstract painting could give viewers this sense of standing alone in front of infinity, without the props of ‘nostalgia, legend, myth’.
Felix Gonzales Torres (1957-1996, Born Cuba, worked USA)
This work embodies Gonzales-Torres’s practice of loading minimal forms with highly charged emotional or political meaning. The title suggests that the symbolic twinned ring design is a portrait, which is both private, as no particulars are revealed, and universal. The rings could be wedding bands, conjoined to create the symbol of infinity – and eternal love. The use of two identical circular objects occurs throughout Gonzales-Torres’s work as a sign of ‘perfect lovers’. The exact symmetry also alludes to homosexual love.
Lee Ufan (1936, born Korea, works Japan, France)
This work belongs to a series that Lee made by painting long downward lines until the paint on the brush is used up. He then returned to the top and started again. Describing his method, Lee wrote: Load the brush and draw a line. At the beginning it will appear dark ad thick, the it will get gradually thinner and finally disappear.. A line must have a beginning and an end. Space appears within the passage of time, and when the process of creating space comes to an end, time also vanishes.
Transformed Visions – a group of 6 paintings, named after the American avant-garde composer John Cage.
Richter was listening to the music of John Cage while he worked on these painting nd titled them after the composer. He has long been interested in Cage’s ideas about the ambient sound and silence, and has approvingly quoted his statement I have nothing to say and I am saying it. Richter is also drawn to Cage’s rejection of intuition as well as total randomness, planning his compositions through structures and chance procedures. While there are no direct links between any particular work in this series and any composition by Cage, some critics have suggested affinities between the two figures’ approaches and between the constant flux in Cage’s music and the space created by Richter’s paintings.