Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Counter cliché

Amy Homes writing in The Guardian...
“Yankee in its simplicity, the language of his paintings is international, as if Kelly early on anticipated a time in which language would cease to be written and instead would become entirely visual. And there is something comforting, familiar, in his forms. As much as they have been abstracted, they are always of us; they are rivers and flowers, the sides of barns, shadows thrown by the late afternoon sun. I'm reminded of a conversation he and I had more than 10 years ago when he said to me: ‘I'm painting for the future, for the 21st century." When I asked how he knows when a painting is done, he paused: "The viewer finishes the painting," he said. "I like to leave them before they're ended, somewhere where they're still quite mysterious’.”

In 1943, Ellsworth Kelly joined the United States Army as part of the 603rd Engineers Camouflage Battalion’s Ghost Army where he designed military propaganda posters and camouflage patterns. Along with other painters and artists, Kelly created decoy devices and trompe-l’œil scenarios to deceive the enemy. After the war, Kelly trained in Paris and named Picasso and Matisse as among his artistic influences. I discovered his work in the seventies thanks to a friend, the photographer and blues guitarist Steve Hiett. I’d love to have even a counterfeit Ellsworth Kelly canvas on my wall… opposite my fake Lucio Fontana! But Kelly also throws down a daunting gauntlet, a painterly challenge to those of us attempting to be creative with escritorial efforts. Amy Homes, herself a novelist, notes in wonder that Kelly “the artful alchemist, has never used the same colour twice; it's not just any red, or yellow or white; every one is different.Dear God, how often our writerly indolence leads us to resort to a splodge of dependable Burnt Sienna, to add a facile flash of Vermilion, to lash on Cobalt Blue in profusion, to settle for Madder Lake… and all the other textual equivalents of the Crayola palette.

And let’s not even mention Purple!   

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