I have never really been a fan of Damien Hirst. Or rather I have always felt attraction and repulsion in equal part, without understanding what the hype was about. Yet I am one prepared to give the benefit of the doubt, do some research to form an educated opinion. Since I have done it for Jeff Koons here, I went to look at Damien Hirst’s Veil paintings.
Oops, he did it again!
24 monumental canvases, visual eye candies for sure and which sold out almost immediately. Easy work, easy sell, what’s not to like, right??
Well, for a start Damien Hirst cites Seurat’s pointillism and Pierre Bonnard’s approach to colors as main inspirations for his Veil Paintings at Gagosian Beverly Hills.
That’s what I did not like.
I actually really admire Seurat’s works which I wrote about here; Pierre Bonnard is a master colorist and I always seek out his paintings during my museum visits.
For me, Damien Hirst’s Veil Paintings are extremely commercial, whereas both Seurat and Bonnard were meticulous in their color theory forays. As true risk takers, they both fully deserve their place in the art history canon.
Having got this off my chest, let me share the works of two artists who took my breath away during my recent visit at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles.
Both Rudolf Stingel and Tauba Auerbach bring a ravishing materiality to their paintings, combined with light effects usually associated with woven silk and textile art. Yet here, the effects are rendered in paint with incredible reality.
The shimmering color change effects of Tauba Auerbach’s paintings reminded me of cangiante silks, particularly favored by Veronese in the Renaissance and most famously visible on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
Termed for their color change effect, these fabrics exhibit shifting colors due to weave and cross-weave being woven in different hues. As such, cangiante silks were reserved for angels if you read Cennino Cennini, and how they shimmer like gemstones!
The effect is similar to what us gemmologists term visible pleochroism. Best observed in andalusite and alexandrite, their body color varies because their anisotropic nature make them absorb light differently along various directions.
If such cangiante effects allowed Renaissance artists to expand on a relatively limited color palette based on mineral pigments, Tauba Auerbach has no such restriction.
Her dexterity at painting the crumpled texture of materials, the resistance between weight and light at folds or the shift in colors, all make her paintings borderline photorealistic.
As you look, there is a constant oscillation of the mind torn between the vision of a 2-dimensional canvas and the illusion of 3-dimensional fabric.
And just when you thought you had seen through it all, Tauba Auerbach upends your senses once more.
With Bent Onyx (2012), your eyes see a 3D sculptural form, carved edges and a gorgeous open book display of natural onyx patterns.
Except that closer inspection brings back…flatness: this is a work on and of paper!
A stroll away from Tauba Auerbach’s photo-realistic universe, Rudolf Stingel uses texture and materiality in a different way, softly veiled with remembrance.
With his silky paintings, Rudolf Stingel explores his memory of rug motives, weaving himself a space in art history.
His use of pomegranates speaks of the past as much as the present.
A symbol of resurrection and eternal life for Christianity and Judaism alike, pomegranates are omnipresent in Renaissance paintings and textiles. And they never really go away – think of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts wallpapers.
Fast forward to us and Rudolf Stingel goes full circle on this, putting his carpets as writings on the wall.
And that is where Rudolf Stingel caught me off guard. The ethereal mood of his paintings looked as if thinly veiled. I thought perhaps from the satin finish of metallic reflections?
In particular, I loved how his triptych displayed a wet look and how his carpet motives seemed to run like tire marks left on a rainy street.
Tauba Auerbach’s photorealism came back to my mind so I got closer.
I discovered tiny textural areas, rubber stamped but never uniformly applied.
As if Rudolf Stingel purposefully left small honeycombed footprints, whispering of the paths he travels between history, memory and his painted reality.
Go see these and more at Marciano Art Foundation.
And feel free to share the love 🙂
© 2018 Ingrid Westlake
All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.