Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Making Painting, Helen Frankenthaler and Turner at Turner Contemporary

The Turner Contemporary gallery has a new exhibition called Making Painting: Helen Frankenthaler and J.M.W. Turner.  Gallery website here
Ruth and I went to the opening night last Friday and it was good to see the gallery full of people.

The exhibition has a good selection of Turner's paintings which I enjoyed looking at closely. Most of the paintings don't have a barrier infront of them, which is great for looking close up, and as there are some small works you can really see the details.

The Evening Star Image from John Lewis website

There are quite a few works that I'll be going back to look at again including The Evening Star which is a deceptively simple painting with a wide expanse of sea, sand and sky. On the beach a boy with a shrimping net and a dog and in the sky a single star. The star is a pale point of light, not easily seen in the print, but a reflection is also on the sea.
The painting is one of Turner's atmospheric works where the effects of light and subtle changes in colour are all explored. A lovely painting and worth studying.

In Boats off Deal just a few brush strokes indicate the boats sailing in a  choppy sea, with the beach in the background. The small painting has the same power of the elements that Turner seemed to love with atmospheric lighting.  I also enjoy seeing his pictures of local Kent scenes. Maybe the gallery will show all the Margate and Kent pictures they can find one day.

There are restrictions on copyright for Turners little graphite drawing of Coniston Fells 1799 so I can't find an image to show here. But I was struck by the sweeps of grey clouds the subtle tones in the landscape and a vertical object like a piece of a broken wooden structure.  I think I will go back to sketch that drawing in more detail.

I don't remember seeing any of Helen Frankenthaler's paintings before. This is her first major exhibition since her exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1969. I am really pleased that the gallery has been showing work by woman artists as most exhibitions still go to male artists.
Helen Frankenthaler was married to Robert Motherwell who is much more well known as is often the case with artists partnerships.

In this exhibition there are early works by her including Hotel Cro-Magnum 1958 which is a large vibrant painting, the name referencing the hotel that she and Robert Motherwell stayed in during a visit to Europe. The paint floods the canvas, Helen Frankenthaler painted with the canvas on the ground, the composition has suggestions of place and form and spontaneity.

Hotel Cro-Magnum image from Art Fund website

In the 1960's She painted Saturn with striking colours of yellow gold, turquoise and ultramarine. There is something of the night sky about the work and of the sun or yellow earth. A lovely quality of energy about the painting too.

Saturn image from BBcCwebsite

In 1992 her painting Overture is filled with green brushstrokes a swirl of green and yellow light and touches of pink and white a little like blossom. A darker passage of colour sits in the foreground. The painting has qualities of landscape that I really respond to.

Overture, image from Art Fund website

After looking at the paintings I was struck by how spontaneous they were, the difficulty in putting down in one move all that you want to convey in a work is very difficult I know. So these paintings impressed me with this singular translated vision and I wondered how many times she got the paintings just right.

So I was pleased to find this little quote from Frankenthaler about just this subject.

"A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once. It's an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute." In Barbara Rose, Frankenthaler (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1975, p. 85)

I recommend the exhibition which is running till
 May 11th 2014.