Characterless

I don’t know much about Gaitonde‘s career, the dating of his work, significance of his titles and so on. However, with time it grows on me, so I have to talk about it. He makes me realize that abstractionists often use forms with little character, to stay this side of figuration. The other common device is all-over or grid like compositions. Gaitonde’s work uses both, though his shapes have a smidgeon more of resemblance to specific things than usual. The forms in my own Island works are some small amount closer to recognizability still, and my arrangements are not generically grid like. Does that make them less abstract? Of such fine distinctions will the future of abstraction be made.

Vasudeo Gaitonde, Homi Bhaba study 1959

Vasudeo Gaitonde, Homi Bhaba study 1959

I still think that the Island paintings are a great solution, and not enough recognized as such, but my watercolors are more conventional in that the shapes they work with

Robert Linsley, Untitled watercolor 2014

Robert Linsley, Untitled watercolor 2014

are also characterless and generic – in fact one reason I like Gaitonde’s work might be that his shapes are similar to mine. When shapes must invent themselves, as in the poured Islands, they can be as articulated and multiform as they need to be. Normally the artist invents shapes, and the decorum of abstraction calls for a minimal effort. So much for decorum. There must be a better way, but theoretical harangues won’t make it appear any faster. Stella’s work suggests that ready-made forms might be a good option – ready-made forms, not objects. My method, which I also recognize in Gaitonde, is to develop those characterless forms from the inside out, into working groups. On a technical note I’ve switched to hot press paper, which is harder to work with. The main problem is to control the water, and the piece above has the normal solution, but I’m tending toward

Robert Linsley, Untitled watercolor 2014

Robert Linsley, Untitled watercolor 2014

the blotchy, mottled look, caused by more water, as perhaps more interesting. On another technical note, here are dry patches of sidewalk surrounded by snow melt, islands you might say. They certainly resemble Gaitonde’s forms. I wouldn’t be one to draw from nature so directly as to trace or otherwise copy them, but take encouragement that forms in abstract pictures can be as natural.

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