The World’s Rarest Colors Live inside This Library

Harvard’s century-old Forbes Pigment Collection contains a literal rainbow of powders—many with origin stories that are practically legend.

Source: The World’s Rarest Colors Live inside This Library

Harvard’s century-old Forbes Pigment Collection contains a literal rainbow of powders—many with origin stories that are practically legend.

Source: The World’s Rarest Colors Live inside This Library

Advertisements

Videos James Presley

Here are some of the videos I have uploaded to my  YouTube account.  If you want a more up close and personal look at my works then click on the link below which will take you to the video page on my online gallery.

It’s so hard to get true colours when you are taking photos of your paintings and I think videos give a more realistic feel of how they would look in life.  Enjoy!

Source: Videos James Presley

 

 

 

Does Abstract Art Exist in China?

With the Olympics in China, I thought I would include this piece that I found on Chinese abstract.

Zhao Wuji’s abstract painting

Abstraction is the Product of Western Modernism

bsent the birth of Western Modernism, there would have been no abstract art. For a brief period during the twentieth century, however, some scholars propounded the contrary theory that abstract art had existed in ancient China. In the Yang Shao culture of ancient China, people were accustomed to the use of simplified figurative forms on their painted pottery to represent realistic forms. The twentieth century scholars thought that these simplified figurative design patterns were the first step in a process leading from figurative art to abstract art. As an example they cited fish patterns on the Yang Shao pottery, which were depicted both with representational forms and with simplied, more abstract forms, suggesting that the representational forms had been employed originally and had over time been depicted in increasingly simplied, more “abstract” forms. However, it was later discovered by archaeologists that both the representational and simplified motifs had been employed during the same period and in the same area, which completely overturned theories about the evolution of abstract art as having begun in ancient Chinese cultures.

Zen Yin Yang Koi Fish Feng Shui

Clement Greenberg was another proponent of the theory that abstract art has its roots in pre-twentieth-century art, in his theory, the art and culture of the Enlightenment. He regarded abstract art as a symbol of the development of mankind’s ability to think conceptually. Greenberg asserted that abstract art is the highest form of art to develop out of Western culture since the Enlightenment. He sees abstract art as the quintessence of culture. Abstraction to Greenberg means freeing oneself from the limitations of figurative language and approaching a state of spiritual freedom that enables the artist to create art that is “just what it is”. A variety of theories concerning Western abstract art and spanning a period of more than a century find their culmination in the work of Greenberg, who thought that the representation of reality with the use of two dimensional forms was far closer to the essence of reality itself than representation in three-dimensional forms. For Greenberg, three-dimensional realism is just an illusion. Greenberg’s theories were derived from Plato. According to Plato, the reality we can see is just a shadow of the real world of “ideas”. Therefore, three dimensional art is just a shadow of yet other shadows. So from this perspective, two dimensional abstract art goes beyond and improves upon three-dimensional, representational forms of art. Abstract art depicts the whole world of ideas, as in the red and black squares of Malevich, and the patterns of Mondrian. Only two dimensional forms can go beyond the limits of visual illusions, thus representing real ideas. Greenberg’s revolutionary theory became the basis for Western abstract art. As Yve-Alain Bois, a professor at Columbia University and a student of Greenberg, said in his book about abstract art, Painting as a Model, the geometrical forms of modern art are its essence.

Changming Meng

Every model requires a code, and it is that code that endows abstract art with its meaning. Furthermore, the act of understanding abstract art is itself a decoding process. But the process of decoding abstract art is quite different from the analytic methods used for previous art forms. Decoding abstract art doesn’t rely on an understanding or interpretation of any representational forms. Theories of abstract art reject the idea that art should be merely representational, that it should be indebted to literature’s narratives or to the world’s visual appearance. The process of decoding abstract art doesn’t depend upon visual reality at all. It is a process moving from one idea to another, as represented, for example by dots, lines, and a color field. On the contrary, art theories have often stressed the role of reality as a medium to decode the meaning of an artwork. Let me offer an example. The decoding process employed by Iconology starts from the physical appearance of an icon, in order to enter its Iconological index, and to finally pierce the symbol itself. This process is based on the relationship between icon and visual reality and it is this relationship that makes the decoding process employed by Iconology possible. Since Iconology is related to theology, history and culture it is therefore the monopoly of art historians. On the contrary, the code of modern abstract art doesn’t need to rely on any icon as medium. Breaking free from the icon as a medium endows the artist with creative freedom. But it does not free the person doing the decoding. This is because defining the meaning of an artwork is the privilege of the abstract artist, who is free of the icon as symbol, not of the task of a passive decoder.

The individual code has become the essential characteristic of modern abstract art. Modernism has produced many masters and excellent artists who rely on personal code as a means of expession. Seeing the works of Malevich, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Newman, we need only listen reverently, listen attentively to the explanations of the artists themselves about how they reconstitute the external world in terms of geometrical forms. This kind of abstract art based on individual codes appeared only during the twentieth century. It is very different from the ancient, non-Western art forms similar to abstract art such as the Yang Shao pottery patterns or on the bronzes of the Shang and Zhou dynasty. The essential difference between those early works and modern Western abstract art is that both the codes employed and the decoding process from ancient works are collective, not individual, codes. At the time of the Yang Shao culture, people could easily understand the various decorative patterns employed probably because they were ritual symbols, used during rites to pay homage. These abstract forms were the symbols of the religious and cultural life of these ancient populations, not the symbols of the individual artist. Both the use of codes and the decoding processes were are collective processes. Therefore, I would argue that modern abstract art is the product of the individualism developed from the Enlightenment onwards and is essentially different from any “abstract” forms either from ancient China or from other non-Western cultures.

Individualism is at the heart of Western modern abstract art because that art form stresses the originality and personal artistic growth that great masters and influential artists are able to pursue. Consequently, new compositions employ totally new code systems, and these new code systems stand for a new meaning. This is what some Western modernists, such as Roger Fry and Clive Bell, refer to as a “significant form”. So the pursuit of significant form resulted in the reverence for individualism and originality. Herein lies the quintessence of Modernism. In the 1950s, Minimalism, a representative style of late twentieth century Modernism, moved from the early modernist ideal toward an extreme formalism of what they called “objecthood” and “theatricality”. Various minimalist artists consider the colors of their images as pure matter . As Stella said, “What you see is what you see .” Minimalism strives for an objectified theatricality, which allows the public to step onto the stage with the artwork . At the same time, it possesses a fierce sense of spatial composition and of space conceived as a whole. Furthermore, Minimalism uses a completely objectified space to express a sense of the material that defies interpretation, thus completely discarding the need for codes and decoding processes. Even if Minimalism destroyed the mysterious and individual allure of the codes used by modern abstract masters, and thus precluded the need for their audience to decode their works, it still remains a quintessential modernist principle because it endows the artist with the absolute power to control the space of the artwork (generally through a series of arbitrary forms). In comparison with Greenberg’s concept of art as “just what it is” and Stella’s notion of “what you see is what you see,” pre-Minimalist abstract art focuses on thought, Minimalism on visual perception. But both consider art an autonomic realm.

Needlessly to say, all kinds of modernism (early and late) reject content (either as a picture of reality, an interpretation of the critic, or a statement of the artist). It is this dichotomy (content vs. form) that set up the foundation for modern abstract art throughout the 20th century. One may find, however, there is no such divide between content and form in the practice of the so-called Chinese “abstract” art.

The Chineseness in Chinese Contemporary Abstract Art

After the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the earlier generation of social realist artists turned to individual styles and aesthetics. A debate over formalism took place in the early 1980s. In 1981, Wu Guangzhong, a French – trained painter of the earlier generation, in an essay published in Art Monthly argued against the dominant forms of realism in favor of abstraction, or “no subject, just form.” The article caused a sensation which inspired a number of younger artists to pursue a modern art style. In the second half of the 1980s, the avant-garde artists of the ’85 Movement continued this experimental art, and used a style similar to abstraction in combination with Surrealism and Expressionism to create what I labeled as “Rationalistic painting”. One may think of Rationalistic painting as an alternative form of Chinese Modernism, because it has an idealistic aspect similar to that of early European Modernism, and because its subjects always relate to traditional Oriental philosophical ideas, such as “squire (fang),” “sphere (yuan),””nothingness (wu)” and “being (you)”. For instance, in the 1980s, there was a group of artists in China, in Shanghai in particular, that was concerned with abstract art. In Shanghai, Yu Youhan, Ding Yi, Qin Yifeng, and Wang Zi were the first artists to create abstract works that employed dots and lines. This kind of Chinese “abstract” art, however, is crucially different from the Western modern abstract art rendered in geometric forms.

From the 1990s onwards, many traditional ink and wash painters such Li Huasheng, Zhang Yu, Zhang Jin and Wei Qingji devoted themselves to abstract ink and wash painting whose subjects were dots and lines. This so-called “abstract art” phenomenon took place simultaneously in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong during the last 20 years. In Hong Kong, Lui Chun Kwong, a professor at the Hong Kong Chinese University, and his students such as Man Fengyi, Kwok Ying, Qu Kailin, engaged in abstraction. In the 1980s in Taiwan, Chuang Pu after his return from Spain devoted himself to abstraction in the form of Minimalism and strongly influenced young artists such as those of the IT Part group.

Nevertheless, how can we define the Chinese “abstract art” phenomenon, or identify the essential characteristics of Chinese “abstract art,” in comparison with those of Euro-American?

First, this Chinese abstract art phenomenon is partly a result of the current urbanization trend and it expresses the responses of individual artists to the impact of globalization. Alternatively, since abstract art in general has been marginalized for at least a half of century, the Chinese “abstract art” of the last 20 years can be seen as a rebellion against conventional realism as well as against current urban mass culture, as both share a similar kitsch aspect.

All Chinese “abstract” artists share a common principle: the squares, the dots, and the lines they employ are neither a mere formal decoration (as “what you see is what you see”), nor are they the material expression of the Ideal (as “what it is”). They are engaged in a dialogue similar to the one carried on in everyday life between artists and objects. The squares, dots and lines symbolize the repetition and triviality of everyday life. They are the expression of self-development in an urbanized context that keeps its distance from the outside world. These abstract forms do not represent things. So, its minimalist appearance has nothing in common with the Minimalist style of 1950s USA. These forms are similar to forms found in the records of spiritual exercises of Buddhist meditation. Almost all these abstract artists stress repetition, continuity, and a simple, unaffected state of mind. They focus on creating an internally satisfying spiritual realm. This is why I labeled the abstract artists of the 1990s as “Maximalists”. “Maximalism” means being able to express freely without dichotomy between form and content, matter and spirit, art work and artist, or object and environment. It means being able to go beyond the formal appearance of an artwork, thus expressing the unique feelings of an artist in a unique context, and his personal process of daily growth. There are many artists concerned with these issues. For example, Li Huasheng’s ink and wash paintings are his personal diary; Zhu Xiaohe, with his short lines, copies ancient paintings and masterpieces everyday. Actually, Maximalism consists of using personal feelings to inform the process of abstraction. Zhang Yu leaves his fingerprints on his casual sketches on Xuanzhi (high quality paper from Anhui Province) in order to condense his own experiences in an abstract ink wash painting. We can cite many other artists, including those in the current exhibition visibleinvisible.

Each of them underscores the importance of individual aesthetic experience as opposed to any standard model to define the forms they choose to use. They never aim at pursuing a unique and revolutionary style. On the contrary they aim at a mutual but tacit dialogue between their personal feelings (spiritual realm) and the means of expression (material realm). All this is evident in their “piece by piece” art making process as well as in everyday life. This approach thus transcends the dichotomy of the abstract aesthetic developed in Western Modernism.

Therefore, the minimalist Chinese abstract art that emerged in the 1990s is not the Minimalism of Western Modernism, rather it is an art phenomenon I call Maximalism. First, the paintings using geometrical compositions in Chinese Maximalist art show no relationship with either the “pure matter” of Minimalism or with the abstract expression of the Ideal of earlier works. Second, they have no relationship with elite style, evolution or other modernist conceptions. On the contrary, these works are related strictly to the everyday life of Chinese people living under the assaults of urbanization. The physical form of the works is not to be seen as an independent entity since the essence of the art is not the works on the walls. Whereas Western Modernist art is derived from the relationship between frame and wall, Chinese abstract art focuses more on the relationship between the artwork and the artist’s affect on it as impacted by the artist’s environment, the process of which is an inseparable part of the artist’s everyday life. So, even if these artists don’t consciously attempt to employ coding, codes appear in the dialogue among the artists, their everyday lives and their artwork. Their codes are invisible and immaterial, therefore it is impossible to decode their works in the conventional manner in which art critics and audiences engage. Instead their codes have to be experienced, rather than read, by the public. Therefore, to decode these works, the audience must do more than read the physical form of a work (that is, it’s surface, or text). It must understand the entire process of making the art, the context underlying the work.

Secondly, concerning the spatial form of paintings, Maximalism is a search for the infinity of space. The Maximalists have no interest in the wholeness of their compositions, which emphasize the difference between center and edge. They do not create independent or self-sufficient paintings. On the contrary, they aim to express their spatial concepts through repetitive forms. Therefore, most of their works are repetitive series. Their “wholeness” is realized in a series of partially completed works. According to the Maximalists, there is not fixed, isolated or unchangeable space limited by a frame. Space is a kind of relationship, always moving and metamorphosing. Some use different “formal principles” to express this infinity. For instance, in his early works, Xu Hongming used the Chinese traditional perspective method — the use of multiple vanishing points in stead of the single point of the Western perspective — to create his own abstraction. He used the method as an aesthetic means to express infinite space. His latest works explore the ways to express spatial infinity by using infinitely subtle changes in color. To take another example, Zhou Yangming and Zhang Fan superimpose innumerable grid layers to create the visual illusions of infinite depth. By unceasingly changing the combinations of rounds (karyon), the latest works of Tan Ping are metaphors referring to the eternal uncertainty of spatial relationships and compositions. This idea of uncertainty, or ambiguity, in fact comes from traditional Buddhist and Taoist philosophy which consider the physical world as increasingly transmuting space.

Conclusion

Therefore, the “space” in Chinese abstract art is neither a composition portraying the spiritual idealism aimed at by the early Modernists, nor is it the closed, unchangeable, theatrical space of the Minimalists. On the contrary, Maximalism seeks to express the infinity of visual space, not its wholeness. It is anti-wholeness and anti-theatricality. Furthermore, the space of Chinese abstract art goes far beyond its physical presence; it consists both of its interior and exterior space. One cannot truly understand the “space” inside the painting without a thorough comprehension of the conceptual space of the artist.
By Gao Minglu

Damien Hirst is rewriting the rules of the market

“Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” sounds like the name of a new work by Damien Hirst, but it’s actually the title of his solo sale at Sotheby’s. The ambiguity is appropriate because Hirst’s rank as an artist is inextricably linked to his status as a headline commanding businessman who wields considerable power over the buying and selling of his own work.

The “Beautiful” auction raises many questions, including: Is Hirst sabotaging his own market? On several stands at Art Basel last month, new and vintage Hirst works remained unsold. Hirst’s studios are not only extremely efficient in keeping his official dealers well stocked with a good range of spot, spin, and butterfly paintings, but in making direct sales themselves. At a time when some gallerists are experiencing a minor slowdown, one dealer suspected the artist of orchestrating an “end-of-boom fire sale” to accommodate his alleged over-production.

True believers, however, see Hirst’s abundant serial output as essential to his oeuvre. Harry Blain, director of Haunch of Venison, whose back room is busy in the trade of Hirst works, explained: “Just as Warhol and Picasso were highly productive, it is an important aspect of Damien’s market that he is prolific. There need to be enough works in circulation to sustain the growing global demand.”

Are primary dealers becoming cuckolds? Sotheby’s Senior International Specialist Oliver Barker claims that the sale has “the wholehearted support of Damien’s dealers…who recognise his rulebreaking charisma.”

However, Jay Jopling, owner of White Cube, sounds a tad ambivalent. “8,601 flawless diamonds notwithstanding, ours has never been a traditional marriage,” he said in Sotheby’s press release, evoking the financial sacrifice his gallery made to coown Hirst’s diamond skull when it didn’t sell outright. One collector close to both Jopling and Gagosian told me, “I love Damien’s work, but his treatment of his business partners is abusive and selfish.”

Certainly many gallerists believe the auction is “a horrible precedent”. However, some view the sale as an almost philosophical event. As dealer-collector David Mugrabi explains, “It seems to be a game for Damien. He’s seeing if he can get away with murder, just as Duchamp did with his urinal.”

What are the strategies of the auction houses with regard to the primary market? Whilst Sotheby’s goes public with a straight-fromthe-studio sale and is rumoured to be courting Takashi Murakami, Christie’s buys the multi-location primary gallery Haunch of Venison.

According to Haunch’s director, “The two auction houses have entirely different approaches and relationships. Christie’s vision is more considered. It recognises the best interests of artists themselves. Damien is one of the few who could pull this off.”

Interestingly, Phillips de Pury aligns itself with Sotheby’s move as senior partner, Michaela Neumeister, asserts, “This Hirst sale would have been a perfect project for Phillips. It’s so fast-forward. We have been the crossover pioneers of morphing business models. Art is all about transforming and border testing, but the dealer logic has been very conservative.”

However, when artists become their own dealers, Dr Neumeister says, “I worry for their freedom and their peace of mind. It’s time consuming and distracting. That’s why it’s great Damien has his alter ego. Frank Dunphy [the artist’s business manager] is a genius.”

What will the auction contain? The answer to this question is the key to the success or failure of this high-risk event. With its solid gold eighteen-carat hooves and horns, The Golden Calf is either a decadent masterpiece or a derivative work targeting a nouveau billionaire. In the end, it is important to note that the sale is not guaranteed and to remember that Hirst’s personal collection is called “Murder Me”.

So, one must agree with Sotheby’s Oliver Barker when he declares, “Damien is totally fearless. He’s not just an outstanding artist, he’s a cultural phenomenon.”

The Art Newspaper

ART REVIEW; Just Enough Color in a World of White

The watercolors of Paul Cezanne rank high among the wonders of Western European art. For this reason, the chance of seeing 46 of them at the Acquavella Galleries is not to be missed.

The most remarkable thing about Cezanne’s watercolors is not so much what he did as what he didn’t need to do. He never manipulated the medium. The white of the paper was an equal partner, not a dance floor on which Cezanne would come on like Nijinsky.

There are landscapes in the Acquavella show — among them ”The Bellevue House on the Hill” (1885-1890) and ”The Mill at the Pont des Trois Sautets” (1890-94) — in which Cezanne almost seems to stand aside while the paper does its full share.

He does not spell out the wooded hillside that leads up to the Bellevue House, but the house itself rides high and steadily. We can read it floor by floor and sense just how much of a climb it would be to get there.

There is nothing ”clever” about what Cezanne does, here or anywhere else. He just leaves it to us to marry the extensive untouched white of the paper with his own perfectly judged touches of color, here and there.

With the ”Mill House,” we know from a photograph taken around 1934 by the Cezanne scholar John Rewald that this was a dreary place in scruffy country. But the artist once again let the white of the paper do much of the work.

The mill house, as he showed it, is light enough to dance in the air, almost. The everyday industrial chimney shoots upward toward the sky, changing color as it tops the tree line. The image as a whole has balance, form and proportion. This is a white world, flecked with yellow and green. Maybe it was never like this (the mill no longer exists), but he makes us feel that this was a place to treasure. He shows us how to look, but he also shows us where to live.

Cezanne was the only man who could paint a rose without describing it and leave us convinced that we have seen it. He did this in the ”Rose in Greenery” in the present show. The greenery is an upward oval of pale green leaves, nuanced with blue and purple.

We never see the rose, but we know that it is there because of the touches of pale pink that surround a white center. We do not see it, but we smell it.

The show also has a magnificent wall of still lifes, some of the grandest of the artist’s evocations of rocks, a very fine group of single-figure portraits and some views of the countryside around Aix-en-Provence (including Mont Sainte-Victoire).

There is also an affectionate little ”Game of Love” in which men and women carry on like puppies. But Cezanne’s erotic interests could come out even where they are least expected, as for instance in the ”Two Melons” (circa 1885). What are those two melons doing, one asks oneself, if not making love?

For the colossal sensuality that Cezanne usually kept private, the great drawings of the rocks above the Chateau Noir are the place to look, no matter how indirectly he showed his feelings. There are two such drawings in this show. Rocks are rocks, and we don’t usually think of them as having feelings. But in their tender conjunctions, an undeclared love has its place.

Something that we may never see again on a single wall is the group of eight still lifes that all date from 1900 until 1906 (the year of Cezanne’s death).

So far from leaving things out, in these complex constructions, he continually raised the stakes against himself, as in the ”Still Life With Apples and Inkpot” (1902-06).

The great intruder in this watercolor is the massive inkpot. Everything else echoes the red and the gold of the apples.

Not only are the red and gold present in the apples, on the surface of the table and on the walls, but they also give themselves an encore in that, as Mr. Rewald said, ”the contours of some objects have been repeated so often that they almost seem to be vibrating.” As for the inkpot, it has something weighty to add that is all its own.

Mr. Rewald, in agreement with his longtime colleague Lawrence Gowing, went on to say that ”those strange staccato outlines that Gowing aptly called ‘vibrating edges’ somehow integrate themselves perfectly into the sea of washes which surrounds them, so that — whether this was intended or not — they pulsate in unison.”

Throughout this astonishing wall, Cezanne takes his repertory company of household objects — bottles, a decanter, a skull, a patterned rug, a spirit stove, seasonal fruits and kitchen essentials — and he makes them do something new every time. Never do they look like the last work of a dying man.

As William Rubin reminds us in his foreword to the show, Cezanne wrote to his dealer Ambroise Vollard in 1903: ”I am working doggedly, for I perceive the Promised Land. Shall I be like the great Hebrew leader, or shall I be able to enter it?”