The Easel

23rd May 2023

Centennial Celebration: Ellsworth Kelly’s Infinite Ideas

It was in postwar Paris that Kelly developed his style – simplified natural shapes painted in brilliant colours. At first, New York wasn’t swept away. After his first solo show he “felt embarrassed, I had to apologise for using bright colours”. Gradually though, these contemplative works – “pure” exercises in colour, line and shape – conquered all.  His works were not about nature, he said, but rather “fragmented perceptions of things … to get at the rapture of seeing”.

The Curious Case of the Transcendental Painting Group

Transcendental Painting Group briefly appeared in early 20th century US. Have they been wrongly ignored? Possibly. It seems they offended influential art critics with their “kooky” ideas. However, their work has a quality of “internal coherence” that is shared by all good art. They show that “art can be deep without being aloof … this is a “gold mine of very good—and very novel—paintings.”

16th May 2023

Mark Bradford has revived abstract art. His New York show is a knockout.

Bradford’s new show in New York prompts a kind of stock take. He is now famous, due to his abstract paintings. But are they paintings?  Using cheap materials, he “beats [them] into some form of beauty … by layering, sanding, gouging, scraping and tearing”. These are not so much paintings as vertical agglomerations and yet they “dramatically expand abstraction’s possibilities”. They allow him the freedom to “remain uncategorized … perhaps our era’s Jackson Pollock”.