Category Archives: Principles of Abstraction

An Opportunity, or A Christmas Message

Stella teaches something every artist should know, or does know but normally forgets—that art is not a problem, it’s an opportunity, an invitation, a promise. What it is for society I have no idea, but that’s what it is for … Continue reading

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Arbitrary Beginnings, Well Known Ends

Further on in the Richter film, starting at 54 minutes, there’s a conversation between the artist and Benjamin Buchloh. They hit on all the points I make in the book, and the conclusion is as I described it. Richter knows … Continue reading

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Decisions, Maybe Bad Ones

This video of Gerhard Richter in his studio shows him painting a couple of largish abstracts, with three big pots of paint—yellow, red and blue—and a wide brush. The sequence in question is from 12-23 minutes. It’s a pleasure to … Continue reading

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Invention and Labour

I read recently about Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic, an allegorical/historical cycle of gigantic paintings, some actually as much as 20 feet high. I’d like to see them, but even before doing so I’m getting tired. Too much work! Mucha is … Continue reading

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Music in the Studio

A lot of artists like to play music while they work. I think it’s a dangerous thing to do. The problem is that the feelings of the music possess you and then you start to believe that your own work … Continue reading

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Simon Hantaï

Hantaï‘s works have an evident beauty, but I never found them interesting enough to really study because they rely too much on the process. Too hands off, not enough intervention by the artist. The right balance of those two things … Continue reading

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No Inconsistencies

The previous post on one of Stella’s Polish Villages may give the impression that all works in the series are as carefully irregular. Actually, most of them seem to be perfectly reasonable. I’m not aware of how Stella sees the … Continue reading

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Possibly Annoying Details

Straight lines that form geometric shapes always imply some kind of consistent order. It might have something to do with buildings, because walls that don’t meet at ninety degrees, or don’t quite meet at all, seem awkward, even though there … Continue reading

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While Waiting

The topic of waiting is not to be confused with procrastination. From an art point of view the biggest problem is the need to be busy, because the true religion of the modern world, in every culture, is work. The … Continue reading

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The Wait

Waiting. Waiting for a pot to boil, for the daylight to change, for the rain to fall, for a flower to bloom—some processes take time, and so waiting is a natural and unavoidable state. For an art that aims to … Continue reading

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Carla Accardi

Carla Accardi was another artist I discussed on the blog several years ago, along with fellow Italians Marisa Merz and Giulio Paolini. In the book she inaugurates the formalist, or “formalist,” chapters. She should be better known on this side … Continue reading

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A Different Frame

This collage is like #5 in the way that the frame within the frame is handled—it’s less of an image than the others, more abstract in a way. But also, unlike #s 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7, the arrangement … Continue reading

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Literary Modernism

I’ve always been drawn to artists who write their own books and illustrate them—or maybe they are actually writers who also draw. Two obvious ones who come to mind are Mervyn Peake and Bruno Schulz, and I like them both. … Continue reading

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A Literary Art

Back at the start of this blog, in 2011 I think it was, I wrote several posts on R.H.Quaytman. She’s still one of my favourite artists, and features prominently in my book. Another artist with a very creative relationship to … Continue reading

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Interpretation in Time

My post on destruction got an interesting response on Facebook from reader Nicole Rigets. She says: “Old books contain new ways of seeing and thinking. In my opinion all books contain secret knowledge (even novels).” This is really fascinating. Of … Continue reading

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Art and Nature Today

The trouble with ideas is that everyone has them at the same time. That’s why art is better—the concrete particular is one thing, in one place at one time. One of my favorite chapters in the book is on art … Continue reading

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Next Collage

Here is a new work underway. In a couple of weeks I hope to show how much these things change for the better as they go on. This one is a step up in size—48×36 inches, instead of 22×28, and … Continue reading

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The Death of Abstraction

Everyone has heard the claim that painting is dead. That’s one idea that deserves to be looked at more closely, and I will do that. Without giving too much of the book away I’ll just say that abstraction has also … Continue reading

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A Critique

Recently an article by Laurie Fendrich was circulating on Facebook. It’s worth reading, but this is what I said about it: I like most of what she says, but object to this: “Painting contains its own roughly defined rules. The … Continue reading

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Globalism and Provinciality

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post images from my book. Here’s one of my favourite comparisons, aboriginal artist Doug Cranmer and the well known Parisian modernist Bram van Velde. Though van Velde had a great interest in … Continue reading

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Collage

I was posting images of my new collages about once a week or so, but recently been spending too many hours at the day job. This one went along pretty slowly, but it did move in the right direction: toward … Continue reading

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Further Losses

Lately I’ve been preoccupied with loss, including the loss of artworks. Every work is the product of one moment, and as such it lives in the here and now. But since an artwork is also a thing it can be … Continue reading

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Still in the Hold

I’d like to thank Lutz Eitel, who forwarded a sketch for David Bomberg’s In the Hold. It clarifies a lot about the figures and their actions. The open-armed gesture, stretching across the middle of the image in a kind of … Continue reading

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In the Hold

This famous piece by David Bomberg really is good. First of all, the subject, namely a ship, is pretty interesting, and more so when we remember how Klee would have done it—with sails on the horizon, a real cliché. Bomberg’s … Continue reading

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Over the Circle

Readers familiar with my blog are probably wondering why I haven’t started in again on Frank Stella. Just waiting. Have many thoughts, and following on the theme of recent posts about Kandinsky there is an opportunity to say something. Stella … Continue reading

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Stanley Whitney

The last few posts have been circling around an idea that I think is pretty important, grounded as it is in studio practice but with implications for history and even for our understanding of time. I keep thinking about something … Continue reading

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Twisting and Lifting

After two posts on geometry that doesn’t line up I want to mention another deviation from the abstract norm found in Noland’s work. Brittle is hardly a word we associate with Noland. Sensuous is the more usual descriptor. But that … Continue reading

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The Possibilities

Following along with Noland in the previous post, to bear down on what seem like small decisions in the art of the sixties and seventies—they were presented as momentous changes in those days so inevitably began to seem small—is one … Continue reading

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Unbalanced

A Kenneth Noland piece like this one opens up a space any abstractionist should find attractive to enter, best described in Noland’s own words: “It’s been on my mind—what would something be like if it were unbalanced? It’s been a … Continue reading

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Nicolas de Staël

A little while ago I was commenting on the great importance of Paul Klee for global modernism after WWII, a fact not much mentioned in the standard histories. Another artist who was very successful and widely admired and imitated in … Continue reading

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