As I refreshed myself on the journey of abstract painting through time, I began to notice something surprising. The term Abstract Expressionism had overemphasized in my mind expression as an impulse for abstraction. An equal factor in the birth and growth of abstraction was extraction, from the emptiness, of beauty.
Right before my eyes, I could see that some greats of abstract art history loved expression, yet others loved to bring out beauty from the void.
One seminal example is Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles, 1889. Art history classes and books talk about the symbology of the objects in the room - how the room is not empty, but full of meaning. Yet listen to Van Gogh's own words:
"The walls are pale violet. The floor is of red tiles. The wood of the bed and chairs is the yellow of fresh butter, the sheets and pillows very light greenish citron. The coverlet scarlet. The windows green. The toilet table orange, the basin blue. The doors lilac. And that is all--there is nothing in this room with its closed shutters."
- Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his younger brother Theo, October 1888, as quoted by Laurie Schneider Adams in A History of Western Art, fifth ed., p.458
Suddenly I could see the bare truth of what Van Gogh had done. He had painted an empty room. Had this ever been done before? The empty room was filled not with symbols but with his love of color, his extraction of beauty from emptiness.
So much to love!
Anyway, I hope you'll come if you like. Here is the blurb and link:
Free Online Presentation
with Julie Bernstein Engelmann
January 10, 2021, 5:00 pm AZ time/MST
Sponsored by the Sedona Arts Center
Three Keys to Appreciate Abstract Painting
Freedom! That’s the impulse behind abstract painting. Whether you love it or just want to understand it, this free online presentation will give you inspiration to see abstract painting more deeply.
Artist Julie Bernstein Engelmann will focus on three key qualities: meaning, naturalness, and spatial depth & flow. Touring some of the abstract greats, you’ll come to discern these qualities for more enjoyment of the art you see or create.
Join Julie for this free presentation on January 10, 2021 at 5:00-6:00 pm Arizona time via ZOOM meetings by clicking the invitation HERE at the appropriate time.
Explore Julie's other ONLINE courses: THE BEAUTIFUL MESS PAINTING CLINIC — A one-day course on January 16 where students will explore revitalizing unfinished work to take it to completion. Julie is also offering her popular painting course THE INSPIRED ABSTRACT, February 22 - 25, 2021.