Inquisitive Inquisition Inquisitor - 44x66
So what inspired you to do a black and white painting?
Well, I had seen the Gerhard Richter paintings from the 1970s of solid grey paintings. Really kind of boring as hell, but the artist talked about the subtlety of the grey shadings. I was fascinated why the artist would do so many grey paintings that actually sold in the 1970s. I wondered what would drive this: the stagconomy of the 70s, oil embargo with Iran, the rise of Islamic state power, legacy of Nazism or just personal depression maybe. In Richter's own words he explains it this way:
"To me, grey is the welcome and only possible equivalent for indifference, noncommitment, absence of opinion, absence of shape. But grey, like formlessness and the rest, can be real only as an idea, and so all I can do is create a colour nuance that means grey but is not it. The painting is then a mixture of grey as a fiction and grey as a visible, designated area of colour."
Were there other famous black and white paintings that inspired you?
The most dramatic painting to view in b/w is the Guernica by Picasso. I first saw it in Spain after the fall of fascist dictator Franco, the painting returned to Spain. Picasso had willed it out of Spain until Franco fell in 1979, which was 6 years after Picasso died. So in a way it was a battle of the wills between Picasso and Franco. Guernica was inspired by the first civilian aerial bombing in 1937, which inspired Picasso to paint this tragedy to forever capture the village pain and disbelief in war. Up until then Picasso had stayed mostly out of politics, so this event galvanized him to become Communist and later travel with the USSR trying to stop US "imperialism" with his Peace doves paintings and a painting on the Korea War. Its kind of full circle as this bombing led to WWII, massive civilian bombing, the Soviet driven invasion of South Korea and now the despotic and hated Kim regime that we are now facing another nuclear bombing and war. This painting just inspires a painter to paint as long as possible, since you can dramatically impact the people in a memorial like this. I think a lot of the pain of Picasso can be seen in my Architectural style as it feels like a military battle.
Another style I really loved to see, is the art of Franz Kline. Kline was inspired by Japanese calligraphy in their ink paintings that he abstracted in his version of Abstract Expressionism made popular in the 1950s. Remember, this was a reaction in a way to the Soviet realism and partial clinginess to realism by Western painters. It was the final stage of abstraction in a way. I think it really captures the spirit of the destruction of the bombing of Hiroshima in a way if you think about what they are communicating in paint. This style of work later led to minimalism painting in the 1970s. I was lucky to catch a great show in the SF Asian Art Museum where they compared the real Japanese calligraphy to Kline painting.
Modern Japanese Calligraphy in huge lettering
How do you see your style within these bodies of work?
I would say that it is more a pure form of cubism in that there is no objects to start with and abstract simply pure abstract shape and form doing battle with one another. I think a good analogy would be kind of like the free form of Kline combined within the structure of Piet Mondrian, seen below in his Black and White Composition. Mondrian evolved this style before the Kline style, so in a way Kline is reacting to the perfectionist line of Mondrian. Mondrian had completely left realism behind in his painting. Unfortunately, with simple line, these are easy to copy. Below are some thoughts on art by Mondrian:
"Art is higher than reality and has no direct relation to reality. To approach the spiritual in art, one will make as little use as possible of reality, because reality is opposed to the spiritual. We find ourselves in the presence of an abstract art. Art should be above reality, otherwise it would have no value for man."
Another famous artist Chuck Close did a serious of his portraits in black and white. These paintings are really interesting in that if you step right up to the painting, it's completely abstract circles repeated. However if you step back a few feet the image changes and really far away the portrait is fairly clear. This is a great use of far and close space. Although of a similar process of playing with all shades of grey, I don't particularly see that much influence on this style I do above. In my Political Pop style I do tend to use more somber faces in my work. I think though this likely will be my first and last black and white painting. But then again, maybe its the start of a long series.