Born in Eindhoven, Dutch abstract painter Arjan Janssen is the creator of incredibly striking, minimal canvases. With a background in art and philosophy, Janssen’s abstract work, with reduced elements, is always vertically oriented, keeping it grounded. He writes: I try to achieve this by the way I work with the material. You can see and feel the working process in the lines and in the paint. In the composition there are always elements which pull the work downwards. His arrangements, often muted and dark, alongside the balanced geometric elements placed upon the canvas, gives the viewer a sense of mystery. My art moves between being withdrawn into myself and being outwardly directed. A tension that requires a delicate balance. Beautiful work.
It has been quite some time since we last featured some beautiful minimalist art pieces on Minimalissimo, so today I would like to introduce you to the remarkable painted works of New York based abstract artist, Augustus Nazzaro. Nazzaro’s work over recent years predominantly features dark, minimalist, abstract forms, a number of which are inspired by military campaigns. His most recent project titled, In Pursuit of Shadows, is particularly striking. For me however, his Rifle Locker series from 2011 stands out as some of his strongest work due to the intricate texture of the black surfaces and the repetition of subtle silhouettes. More of this series along with other examples of his paintings can be found on Nazzaro’s website. Photography courtesy of Saatchi Online.
Australian artist Matthew Allen, currently based in Sydney, is a colour based painter. His work, which has been consistently exhibited at Sydney’s Sullivan+Strumpf gallery since 2008, consists of a beautiful collection of minimalist colour combinations. Allen’s paintings are absent of any formal composition and physical elements of the artist’s hand to present an ongoing enquiry into the pure materiality of paint upon canvas and the fundamental structure of painting itself: colour, medium and process. The painting is delicately handled to produce soft gradients of tone that in turn creates an atmospheric, sensory and emotional experience for the viewer. Some of the gradients Allen has created, particularly in his 2010 works, look absolutely superb.
Toronto based visual artist, Kal Mansur, specialises in solid acrylic sculpture. It is Mansur’s minimalist styled Pixels collection that I am delighted to share with you today. The Pixels bring to mind scaled-down architectural models. Empty spaces, walls and blocks are suggested, subtly visible through the semi-opaque acrylic. There is no point of entry, sealed completely on all six sides. The viewer gets just a hint of the interior as available light creates shadows, exposing voids. Created in 2010 and 2011, each piece is made up of solid acrylic, beautifully hand carved, featuring straight painted lines. All measuring 16 x 16 x 3 inches, it is certainly the dark canvas sculptures that I find most striking, particularly that entitled, Secrets.
This week I have been reminded of the work of Yves Klein (1928-1962) who is perhaps best remembered as a painter of blue monochrome paintings. More specifically, he is known for the particular shade of blue paint employed in his paintings and sculptures, the trademarked International Klein Blue (IKB). But what has drawn my attention to Klein’s work this week is more the conceptual side of his practice (although this is not to imply that his blue monochromes are not conceptual), especially the work in which Klein explored (and exposed) throughout many mediums what he dubbed ‘the void.’ To this effect, Wikipedia recounts works by Klein such as a composition with no actual composition, painting without painting, and an exhibition without any content whatsoever (his Iris Clert Gallery exhibition of April, 1958). I’ve stressed in the past that where minimal art succeeds for me is in its ability to be reductive and to reveal the essence of being and matter. Klein took this to—what was at the time—extremes, and in his idiosyncratic grand and theatrical manner. We’re all better off for having him.
Chris Packer exhibited a series of paintings titled ‘The Planes’ for Factory 49 in February in what’s known as the ‘Office Space'; for the same duration, I exhibited a new project in the ‘Showroom’. The paintings were white canvases with cotton tape arranged geometrically across them; the cotton tape was white on the outside, but coloured on the underside. As a result, the white canvases were illuminated by the reflection of colour from the underside of tape in a very alluring way. In the catalogue available at the gallery, Packer comments: In the present work, the cotton tape acts as ground and curtain, at once carrying and hiding the painting. What struck me most with Packer’s exhibition was the way he utilised a small space with comparatively quite large paintings that were compositionally connected. Speaking of this aspect of his work on his website, Packer writes: Where you might ordinarily create a series which you then cull to make a cohesive offering, this show proceeded from a design based on the shape of the space, then isolated parts of the whole to produce independent ‘easel paintings’. It was a delight to exhibit alongside Packer and I look forward to seeing...
AaPFAFF is the artistic project of Catalan painter Guillermo Pfaff. His GRADO:0 exhibition in the prestigious La Taché gallery in Barcelona is an exploration in concise, self-contained geometry. His Portable Paintings, canvases that can be folded and stowed away at one’s leisure, are quite a pragmatic and maybe even revolutionary approach to art as a consumer product. I had the opportunity to ask the artist a few questions and was fascinated by his system and methodology, very minimalistic and sustainable in nature, consisting basically of producing art with minimal gestures and materials, as well as only producing work that has a specific finality. Quite the example of precision.
Dutch artist Ine Vermee, based in Tilburg, has created a minimal and tranquil series of colour planes carried out in enamel on steelplate, adopting a colour sample by the well-known American architect Richard Meier (Thirty Colours 2004) and beautifully demonstrating there is not simply one kind of white. 15 Meier Whites is currently being exhibited at the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck Remagen, Germany until March 3, 2013. Vermee writes: In this exhibition my work functions as a transition between the architecture of Richard Meier and the artworks in the Arp Museum. Here the main focus is how the colours and nuances of colour relate to each other, how they emerge in successions and gradations. If you happen to visit this exhibition, be sure to share your thoughts.
Italian abstract artist Agostino Bonalumi is renowned for his estroflessioni works or painting objects from 1960 to present. They are essentially made from structures and frames, which, when placed at the backs of canvases, causes them to stretch and deform, creating plays on light and shadow. The result allows the viewer to actively participate in each three dimensional piece. It is a collection of Bonalumni’s recent painting objects that I would like to share with you today. From 2010 to 2012, he has created these elegant and deceptively simple acrylic on canvas works. Gallery Vedovi, where Bonalumi’s work was recently exhibited, writes: Bonalumi uses special substructures in wood or metal to break the evenness of the canvas that lent it a plastic relief, thus allowing to capture light and to throw shadows on its own. The strength of these geometrical shapes is enhanced by the monochrome in a homogeneous, nuance free and flat colour. I would love to check out one of his exhibitions in the future. If any of you have had the pleasure, please share your thoughts.
I first saw the work of Magda Cebokli (a Polish-born abstract artist living and working in Melbourne, drawing on her experience in psychology) at an exhibition called Shelf Life at Delmar Gallery, just around the corner from my house. I was pleasantly surprised to see her paintings, and happy to report that Cebokli has been responsible for many other beautiful series of work as showcased on her website. Of these I’ve been particularly attracted to Ring Cycle from 2011. According to her website: Circles of shifting light are the focus of this set of paintings which explore luminosity and the structure of space. Continuing on the theme of light and edge, Cebokli now explores it in the tight closed form of series of concentric rings. In some of the paintings, light on dark conjures up images of a space where light is swallowed inward or pulses out toward the viewer, creating space within space. In others, hard, clearly defined edges become reduced to blur by slight shifts from dark to light. Stunning.
English artist David Sawyer, working from his studio based in Louisville, Colorado, recently introduced me to his incredible and minimalist collection of grey grid canvas paintings. While there is a large body of minimalist work involved with grids, straight lines and symmetry, Sawyer’s paintings are freehand, and the linear elements in them are far from straight, though at a distance there is a semblance of linearity. The result is a subtle shimmer of movement as though the surfaces, though inert, create their own presence by vibration – almost sound-like. The painted surfaces are rendered using a Japanese painting process called ‘Nihonga’, the paint being a mixture of mineral pigments and heated animal glue. The canvases are sensual, subtle, and there is movement among the close-valued hues on the canvas surface. The canvases are created intuitively, in a process of orchestrating near-silence and near-stasis. As within the modern tradition of minimalism, allusion to form is not central to the painted surface. The imagery of these works comes out of an awareness of perfection and garners its energy from absence.
Ad Reinhardt (b. 1913-1967) is often associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement of New York, but like Barnett Newman, his work often defies this categorisation, and is now considered a big influence on minimal art and monochrome painting. He is perhaps best known for his so-called ‘black paintings’. At first, these works seem to be black monochromatic paintings. However, if one stays with the work long enough, their eyes will adjust to and reveal the variance in colour and formal elements (many of these take on the form of a crucifix or a grid). Earlier versions required just a few minutes of the viewer for their eyes to adjust, but my understanding is that as he advanced in his career he produced paintings that would require twenty or thirty minutes of viewing. There is something incredibly Zen about this series of work. They are an opportunity to be present with something we think we know, and over an extended period of time (a meditation?) come to learn how different things really are beneath the surface. In the process, we become intimate with the work and revel in its secrets.