By Sarah Sutro
The raw material of experience - Atipiboonsin, Welch, Sutro
For many people abstraction is an unknown frontier, but what they don’t realisze is that this same quality is present for the artist making the work as well. Starting from the known, the artist sets off on an adventure, a journey without definition or goal….except to find expression for the raw emotional or visual material within.
In one sense these three painters take as their starting point the grid, a 20th century composition, both a standard and a limitation that so many modern artists strive to incorporate and surpass.
Gumsak Atipiboonsin’s work has a liquid painterly style. In oil, with ebullient colour flowing into fluid geometries, the surface is loosely structured in a pattern. He often uses hand-drawn grids as an organiszation for his canvases, yet his work is anything but minimal or rigid. Ironically, the grid’s formation is contradicted by his luscious use of colour that invites the eye to flow with the paint. The grid is not a limitation but an invitation to visually indulge.
Audrey Tulimiero Welch’s oil paintings are earthy and expressionistic, offering order in only the most organic sense. In Welch’s Touching Down series metamorphosing pools of colour overlap with more defined areas. An arrangement of poured forms, scraped surfaces, lines and stains somehow capture the chaotic, poetic order of the natural world. Colour and mark replace the grid, making a structure that is more intuitively mapped.
Sarah Sutro’s Raintree paintings on paper, using natural colour made from bark and plant material, find a movement in nature that is both repetitive and free. In a sense, the Raintree Series makes a moving grid of marks. Large scale texture, from washes of earth pigment, speaks to life in nature,; passion,; change. The internal, organic form and energy of growth are present in her intense, large scale marks, moving downward, like rain to the earth.
All the painters represented use sweeping motions with brushes, also scraping the surface, moving the paint and ink washes across the canvas or paper. The American abstract expressionist current that flows through these pieces -, appropriate, since two of the artists are American -, was originally a gestural reaction to the control of formal, figurative painting, or geometric abstraction such as Mondrian’s grids.
Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and also second generation painters like Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler and Friedel Dzubas, broke into new territory with their explosive gestures, mark-making and saturated colour fields, defining a new era of expressive abstraction and demonstrating a love affair with the brush, the mark and the stained canvas. Earlier than this, Asian artists developed a language, often aligned with Zen and other spiritual practice, in which a single line or brushstroke abstractly evoked a range of feeling. Unerringly, Asian artists painted with great spontaneity what artists from other cultures painstakingly described. The abstract expressionists, of another time, culture and generation, understood a similar truth about the power of the mark, the gesture born of the moment and the imprint of the soul through eccentric use of materials as varied as house paint, acrylic, ink and sand.
Through the surface of their works, the three artists in Natural Process illumine the nature of process for us, their very immediate canvases and painted drawings open up a world of charged feeling and identification with materials, man-made or natural, that help to define their intuitive approach. Present for centuries in the work of Asian ink drawings and Buddhist inspired paintings, these qualities are also strongly present in our own time. Antipiboonsin, Welch and Sutro’s work sustains a depth of both exploration and expression, an emphasis on paint itself, and intuitive content, that captures something powerfully present under everyday life’s surface.
In the work of the three painters, showing at Unocal Gallery from September. 9 - Oct.ober 6, 2007, the process of abstract painting is expounded and shared.
International School of Bangkok
Nonthaburi 1120, Thailand
-Sarah Sutro, author of "Iron and Molasses, an American Artist Reflects on Natural Color."