Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Thoughts on Rothko's restored painting and creative channelling

Study for painting, The Departed series

The above link takes you to the Tate short film about the restoration of the Rothko painting, one of the paintings from the Seagram Murals series, which was damaged with graphiti ink over a year ago.

I have books on Abstract Expressionism in my personal library and a couple on Rothko.  It is a long time since I have been able to look at them because they have been in strorage for most of the time since I moved up to N Yorks nearly nine years ago.  They have only just recently been unpacked and placed reverently on a shelf.  I have not looked at any Rothko paintings, whether in reproduction in my books, or at Tate for a very long time.

It was, therefor quite an experience to watch this video and to be reminded of the beauty, presence and majesty of the works.  I was also quite taken aback; I realised during the film, that quite innocently and unintentionally, my recent drawings and paintings have reflected and connected with the obelisk shapes that Rothko used. Now, I am not so stupid as to suppose that all art can possibly be completely original, and these connections between artists works happens a lot.  What took me by surprise is the fact that I had been unaware of my connection/reflection of the Rothko motif.  In my whirring mind as I continued to watch the film, I realised that this was probably subliminal, that because of such a long lay off caused by ill health when I moved here, I was not engaging much in art or art history but that my subconcsious was probably playing a part in the making of my recent works.  

I should add here that the recent works of which I speak are not pastiches of Rothko; they are quite different; it is the connection to them that I have been reminded of that has taken me aback. The connection in some way pleases me even as it worries me in the sense that now that I am aware of it, I need to beware of allowing my work to veer too near towards Rothko's motif or characteristics.  I am not flattering myself here; just writing my thoughts down honestly as I discuss and try to make sense of what I have just experienced during the watching of the above video mere minutes ago.  (My good friend Matt Lyon, who is a very successful graphic artist just told me on facebook that we cannot escape creative channelling!)

Rothko's great works communicate so profoundly because of the humanity they reflect back at us, I think. His works deal with the great and timeless subject of our own mortality, the human condition. When I first began my recent series of work, which I am still developing, at the very end of 2012, I was thinking about my own mortality having had to confront it during my illness, as well as the then recent deaths of four of my best friends. So the passage of time, the human condition and ideas of memory and loss began to emerge as the theme of my work; the obelisks within my initial drawings represented the people I had so recently lost.  It is not so surprising that I should find that I have a connection with other artists given that this is probably the greatest theme in all the arts there is!

What has surprised me so much is that I had been unaware of the connection and this is a timely reminder that I need to be making use of my library of books again and reflecting and noting down my thoughts in visual form as I do so. Also that a visit to Tate to see the Seagram Murals, to sit and contemplate things in front of these great paintings is way overdue.

Drawing, The Departed 1V, Graphite on paper

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