Inspired by Kline

Is it art if the artist (ie me) is only responding to the chosen frame and its intended spot on the wall?

I found some $2 dollar frames in the small homewares section of my local supermarket; the black rims attracted my attention amidst a few scented candles, towels and bamboo trays.

Back home, I wandered around the house with frame in hand and decided that the door to the back verandah would be the best spot for them. They are small frames, and the idea was to fill them with detail so that new discoveries could be made when I regularly passed by.

I was explaining this course of events to my family when an image of Franz Kline’s black and white abstracts sprung to mind.

It is thanks to this blog’s readership that I even know about Franz Kline’s paintings. One day, I posted a photo of a magpie nest, under construction, and a kindly reader exclaimed how the tree branches reminded her of a Kline. I had to investigate. And liked what I found.

Jumping ahead 7 years from the nest and I wondered about the lifespan of magpies while travelling back to that moment of introduction, looking again at online examples of Kline’s paintings and thinking of ways to distill that intensity into my tiny photo-sized frames. There is an excellent video from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) on how Kline made his paintings.

I’ve re-acquainted myself with the contents of my studio, found some old projects from my Canberra days that I really should finish, pulled out some different types of paper, assorted black and white media (pencils, paints, pastels, there was even a white oil crayon, some conte crayons and charcoal) and, remarkably, a bottle of black ink and some calligraphy pens I’d bought some years ago as a potential Christmas present for someone.

Kline used house paint, but that’s not going to work on my little, almost miniature, versions. Apparently, he liked how shiny it was and how runny.

So here I am, being as gestural as possible in such a small space, some black watercolour, some white conte and the oil crayon, and a bit of charcoal … and the more I work the duller the image is becoming. I’m loosing contrast very quickly.

The images on screen are high contrast and appear to have depth even though there are only two colours. I’m struggling to find depth in my four attempts.

About to give up, I decide on something that feels very rash and brash. I tip a little ink on the paper – a couple of blobs – and start moving the paper around so that the liquid runs free under the force of gravity and motion. The contrast with my brush marks is vivid. And for a while, the shine of the wet ink reminds me of glossy house paint.

I now have to wait ever so patiently for the ink to dry.

What are your thoughts?

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