reminded of the work of Tomma Abts by the criticism of the work of Bryan Schellinger

Bryan Schellinger seems to be embarking on a similar pragmatic journey away from Barnett Newman’s Onement by complicating his stripe paintings with all sorts of associations, including a false sense of perspective space, allusions to textiles and possibly abstracted veils of drizzling rain? Yet, despite these complications they are essentially process driven formal experimentations. As a painter having it both ways; both purely painterly and complicated through intervening elements is the fence to ride these days.*

Jeff Jahn’s analysis of the work of Bryan Schellinger on the PORT blog struck me immediately as being applicable to the work of Tomma Abts, presented for the Turner Prize show last year.

Abts blend of abstraction with the addition of certain figurative references—notably the spatial references running through the works—seems to follow the movement suggested by the quote, although it’s speaking of a somewhat different style of painting. The artists take these “complications” in differing directions, Abts in a much more austere and restricted way, the activity kept strictly within the frame of the painting; while Schellinger’s seem to be placed to create an awareness and series of connections with the rest of the installation they are a part of. In this respect, the most that can be said of Abts’ work is that they are a series of small paintings arranged neatly in a room.

Although I expect this is just an off-hand comment, and I shouldn’t take it too seriously, I’m not sure I would agree with Jahn that this hybrid form represents a “fence to ride.” It suggests that the artist is avoiding commitment one way or the other. I don’t think this is a necessary requirement of these paintings (or any paintings, unless they are specifically positioned as being like this), or that it is really an issue at this point in time. These artists are positioned at a moment of reflection on the past of painting, through which they are working, and from which these paintings are, perhaps, the (inevitable?) forms that arise.

* JAHN, Jeff (2007). Bryan Schellinger at Quality Pictures. PORT [Internet] 10 July 2007. Available from <> [Accessed 14 July 2007]

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