I have been going back to my copy of Wolf Kahn's Pastels rather frequently, soaking up some of the markmaking and palette choices of his.
I was intrigued to read more about his approach to landscape as a subject - it resonated on a number of levels, some of which I mentioned before briefly.
1. Landscapes as creating space (I am tempted to talk about the production of space, but then I'm firmly in academic jargon, so I leave that for a moment).
Barbara Novak, in her Introduction (p. 7) talks about it as:
Kahn's art represents the most difficult of closely negotiated mergers between the dialectics of abstract form/color nurtured by [Hans] Hofmann's tutelage and his own pragmatic observation of nature in the 'raw', if not the wild...
Kahn's work is very subtly positioned, perhaps through part of what he calls 'strategies', midway between the demands of nature and those of art.
She lists a wide range of key influences including
- George Innes
- Albert Pintham Ryder
- Edward Hopper
- Mark Rothko
- Martin Johnson Heade
- Winslow Homer
- Paul Gauguin, and
- Vincent Van Gogh,
and continues that
The nature of this space is disturbing in its imbalances, impressive in its effects and probably the result not only of artistic intention, but of a subtle push-pull between natural and pictorial spaces that must be mediated. (ibid)
This creating and making of space on a two-dimensional surface is infused by a
2. Sensitivity to mood, climate, light and place - I called that romantic love of nature landscapism before.
- so, the German romantics figure prominently, notably Friedrich Schelling's philosophy and
Caspar David Friedrich's paintings - fertilized, as Novak (p. 11) calls it by Hans Hoffmann's teachings and Kahn's own admiration of modern masters such as Giorgio Morandi, Mark Rothko and Pierre Bonnard. These names suggest
... clues to what [Kahn] is after in his own work: stillness, what he calls 'radiance', and a coloristic experience that, as he says 'ups the ante'. Place becomes meaningful for him when returns to it again and again, to 'deepen the experience'.Here, soft pastel provides a medium with which to record immediate experience and ability to rely on process - to be worked up later in a more formal process with oil paints. The medium enables Kahn to grapple at once with the subject of nature and its pictorial solution.
- See my previous posts discussing Wolf Kahn, here
- One of my previous posts on concerns over landscape, here
Oh, and then I had an image of myself staring back at me in a weird place on the sidebar, having momentarily forgotten that I had sent it to Casey at Pastel for a guest spot. So, Casey will host a post about my fields, ponds and various reflections shortly, but has announced it yesterday. I am very excited about this - Casey's own work as well as his discussion of Kahn and other Colorists has been hughely important for me to get a sense of the possibilities of pastels.