Seashore

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Image courtesy of Heels and Wheels

Roy Lichtenstein is my favorite pop artist. He didn’t only paint comic book style scenes. In fact, he also sculpted (I’ve seen two of his Brushtrokes sculptures in real life) and experimented with a variety of materials. Landscapes are a subject he tackled throughout his career. When you think about it, these landscapes are not that far from the comic book universe, as they would work as background and they are stylistically similar to Lichtenstein’s most famous artworks. His landscapes are also some of the pieces where he experimented a lot with materials. In a lot of the seascapes he made he used Rowlux, which is a holographic plastic-y material that he found quite fitting to represent the undulations of the sea. I chose Seashore because I like the visual rendering of the paint dotting better than the Rowlux, but you can check out the exhibition catalogue of the exhibition Roy Lichtenstein: Between Sea and Sky that took place last summer at Guid Hall here

Above we have an oil on plexiglas  painting from 1964 which belongs to the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation. Lichtenstein uses his usual dotting technique to render the different layers of the sea, sky and rocks. This was painted on different layers of plexiglas for added depth. As always with Lichtenstein, it’s interesting that the small elements, bold lines and tiny dots form the complete picture. This painting only has 4 colors. No nuances in shading or anything. It’s simple but it has a dimension, which is something that I particularly appreciate with Lichtenstein in comparison to some other pop artists.

Self portrait in the studio at Peckham after Steenwyck the Younger

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Image courtesy of Art Daily

Today, we’re looking at a 2015 painting by the amazing Raqib Shaw. It’s part of a series of four paintings based on works from the National Gallery. I picked this one because it fits the exhibition particularly well, being a self portrait set inside the artist’s studio. A lot of imagery is reminiscent of himself and his work, such as the bronze sculpture which was first exhibited at the same time as this painting. Other elements that refer to the artist in this painting are his dogs and his champagne case.

I also like that there is an actual mirror at the center of the painting where the representation of the artist is reflected. This might be linked to the fact that it is adapted from an older painting by Steenwyck, dating back to 1610. As you can see if you compare it with the original below, Shaw kept the basic structure and format of the painting, as well as some striking elements: the architectural features, the tablecloth, and the floor design. His painting is more charged than the original, in his usual opulent style and with his particular technique of painting with enamel using a porcupine quill, which renders this precision and realistic feel. Another difference you will have noticed is the background, which features views on a garden in Shaw’s version. This is the view he has from his studio; so effectively, he hasn’t represented his workplace in terms of structural features but in terms of its exterior.

I’m a big fan of this painting because of its very personal nature but also because there is plenty to look at. It’s full of technique, color work, but also choices, which gives it a striking personality that I fell can sometimes get lost in a lot of contemporary art.

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Tackle

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Image courtesy of Chris Cosnowski

This oil on panel from 2014 by Chris Cosnowski represents an American Football trophy.  It is a theme very recurrent in Cosnowski’s work, which focuses a lot on American culture and the meritocracy. His reflection goes into the symbolic of the trophy, how it aims to be grand and metallic but is in fact only a small plastic figurine; so basically an illusion. I think the idea of the illusion works well because his paintings are also very good at creating this sensation thanks to his great technical skills in depicting metal (or in fact, gilded plastic).

If you’d like to check out some more of his work, this is his website.

Two Crabs

Image courtesy of the National Gallery

So today I’m sharing my favorite Van Gogh painting. Two crabs, 1889. It’s displayed in the National Gallery in London right next to the super famous Sunflowers, which I think is a shame because it gets overlooked a lot. There’s usually a huddle of tourists trying to look at the Sunflowers hiding it. So if you do happen to visit the National gallery don’t miss out on it.

And now a bit of the history behind this painting. It is believed that Van Gogh was inspired by a woodcut by Hokusai  that he saw in a book his brother sent him the same year this painting was made. This isn’t the only crab painting by Van Gogh, there is another one in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam but I didn’t get a chance to see that one in real life yet.

The Turban Field

Image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

This ink and gouache on prepared paper by Shahzia Sikander from 2005 is probably one of my favorite paintings ever. When I saw it at the MoMA, it stood out among all the super famous masterpieces. Sikander is an internationally established Pakistani artist, and you can check out more of her art on her website.

Blue Green Yellow Orange Red

Image courtesy of the Guggenheim

This painting by Ellsworth Kelly from 1966 consists of 4 panels of oil on canvas, and belongs to the collection of the Guggenheim museum (review coming soon), although I don’t think it’s currently on display because I don’t remember seeing it when I was there.

Note that Kelly had a reasoning behind his painting of solid colors, which is a composition he started experimenting with in the 1950s. For him, they represent the extracted essence of the objects he was painting. Instead of making a figurative representation, he broke things down to the most basic shapes and colors. These paintings also have a sculptural dimension to them because they have no figurative elements and therefore the focus is on their relationship to each other and to the space they are in.

The MFA has a similar composition (pictured below) from 1968 which actually inspired me to post about this one. In fact, you can see that the sculptural dimension is much more obvious in the second painting because the colors are not only arranged by their order in the spectrum but also by panel size.

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Gratitude

Image courtesy of Artsy

This painting by Agnes Martin from 2001 belongs to a private collector, but until October 11 you can see it at the Tate Modern gallery in London. I personally can’t wait until I go see it for myself so I can tell you more about this incredible artist and hopefully share some more discoveries with you.

Orchids and Hummingbird

Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine arts

This stunning oil on canvas by Martin Johnson Heade is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston). It was executed between 1875 and 1883, and is part of a series of paintings pairing hummingbirds and orchids or passion flowers. The hummingbird was one of Heade’s preferred subjects, and they are almost part f his artistic signature. This style of realistic exotic landscapes allowed  him to stand out among his contemporaries and are what make of Heade such a unique artist. I discovered him while visiting the MFA, but his works are distributed among several museums around the world, and I will definitely post some more as he is one of my favorite painters.

Blue, White, Green

Picture courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts

This artwork is a series of 35 oil paintings on canvas by American artist Ralph Coburn, dating to 1950 (approximately). The pieces are actually meant to be placed in any order and there are no specific instructions as to how they should be exhibited. I like the current display at the MFA, and the symmetry and regularity it gives off. However, this work is interesting because it allows for this versatility and different readings even though it is essentially linear. A different disposition would generate a totally different reaction and I think this is mainly what makes a work of art powerful.