Whilst researching paintings today I came across a new word: “malerisch”
The wiktionary page provided the following definition:
Painterliness is a concept based on the German term malerisch (painterly), a word popularized by Swiss art historian Heinrich Wölfflin (1864–1945) in order to help focus, enrich and standardize the terms being used by art historians of his time to characterize works of art. It is the opposite of linear, plastic or formal linear design.
Both the painters I have chosen to research rely on malerisch techniques in their work.
When I first read the excerpt from Brave New World I imagined an image of a room, with the bold, sharp lines of the window frames emerging from a sickly coloured cloud. I experimented drawing these lines, varying the angles of perspective (making use of our workshop on perspective drawing with Tom) and then adding acrylic paint to see how I could achieve the ‘cloudy’ effect. I realised the the texture I was looking for was that which I’d seen in paintings, where artists make use of broad, immediate brush strokes and impasto (applying paint very thickly so that brush strokes are visible. Provides texture and sculptural depth to a painting.)
The ‘screaming pope’ paintings by Francis Bacon then sprang to mind. After exploring his work, via the official website run by The Estate of Francis Bacon, I see many parallels between it and what I hope to achieve. Although the majority of Bacon’s paintings concentrate on a figurative subject one continuing link is the simplification of the space around them. Blocks of colour and line hint at heavily stylised environs while many sit within entirely undefined spaces. Another common characteristic of his work are the ‘space frames’, groupings of rectangles and lines often enclosing the subject, reminiscent of a frame or doorway.
To me the lack of context to surroundings and use of malerisch techniques produce a similar visual feel to dreams or memories. Often, when remembering a dream in particular, we can see certain details vividly while other aspects are completely blank; our imagination confronted by a cloud of mist in the blank spaces. I intend to paint areas of negative space with the aim of conjuring this same cloudy sensation in the mind of the viewer. This is because to me that is how I visualize when reading and the task is to communicate our interpretation of the text which is only a fragment itself.
The frames are also an interesting aspect, introducing two and/or three dimensional space, angles and shapes. Currently I am very concerned with line and perspective the visual tricks it can play.
Interestingly Bacon preferred to work from photographs, something I also find as a useful element to inform my work.
After considering the aspects of influence from Francis Bacon’s work I then began to look again into the work of Italian painter Jessica Rimondi. I discovered her paintings via the Saatchi gallery artist listings. Her work combines photo-realism with use of malerisch techniques such as impasto, layering and subtraction of paint material, splashes and scribbles which produces an almost collage type effect, adding depth and sculptural qualities. In her profile on Saatchi Art she talks about her use of ‘strata’ (i.e. layers) and gesture and how these physical elements and actions contribute to the metaphorical meaning of the work. That the more informal, gestural mark-making is an attempt to strike communication between artist and audience; it brings an element of performance, an emotional record in the medium of paint, just as we may record with writing. Many of the paintings appear incomplete, with sections left entirely blank or only sketched out. I feel this lends a similar dream-like quality to Rimondi’s work as mentioned above when discussing Bacon’s. The paintings have the appearance of memories emerging from the fog. In many the narrative is layered, figures frozen as if in photographs. Blocks of colour and texture in between give the impression of time passing. The colour palette is mostly cool blues and greens, conjuring calm, melancholy and nostalgic sensations.
I feel that Rimondi’s colour palette in particular has influenced my current vision for my work. As with Bacon much of her work is figurative whereas I intend to pursue non-figurative subjects however her style of using the paint, physically and metaphorically, is what I hope to be able to take inspiration from in my painting.