Nonrepresentational art captured the imagination of artists since late 19th century. But in the major part of 20th century it literally devoured the hearts and minds of painters, sculptors and even architects. From fauvism to futurism, cubism to Dadaism the language of artistic abstraction evolved at a rapid pace. A world ravaged by war and economic depressions needed a radically different thought process for re–establishing order, mending broken lives and alleviating pain as best as possible. The romanticism associated with baroque, rococo or neo–classicism seemed like a distant memory and was hardly relevant in the backdrop of death and destruction. Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, one of the founding members of Futurism, summed up the despondency perfectly when he said, ‘There is no longer beauty except in the struggle. No more masterpieces without an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault against the unknown forces in order to overcome them and prostrate them before men.’
In this artistic milieu Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg introduced neo–plasticism to the world. They stripped their canvas of everything except pure lines and shapes depicted in solid blocks of black, red, yellow, blue and white. A new dialect of art was born that is faithful only to the purity of geometric forms. It became hugely popular among artists across Europe and North America.
Rosemarie Bloch was born in 1940, Cincinnati, Ohio. She was too young at the time to understand the impact of abstract geometric painting and why Broadway Boogie–Woogie completed by Piet Mondrian in 1943 is still one of most treasured items in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Graphic designers found the theme inherently stimulating. So it does not come as a surprise when Rosemarie Bloch find her artistic expressions in grids and become motivated to explore and paint a city’s vista on canvas in the language of abstraction.
We would never know if the famous Rascal Flatts song Life is a Highway was in the back of the subconscious mind of Joe Simpson, the gifted artist from England, when he created Across America. For the paintings, often consisting fleeting images of a vast country, evoke a feeling of Life’s like a road that you travel on / When there’s one day here and the next day gone / Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand / Sometimes you turn your back to the wind. If noticed closely the sketches, monochromatic and denuded from any distraction, feel even more intimate. As if you may find your own home or the corner of a street of your neighbourhood staring back at you from the frames!
Joe Simpson is one of those artists whose faith is firmly rooted in realism. He uses facets from everyday lives to weave his story on canvas. So common men and women with their hopes and aspirations, love and affections, despondencies and rejections become loci of his narratives. In that respect his work is a golden link between him and the masters of Dutch Golden Age who brought genre paintings into the centre of attention. Appropriate to the age the backdrop changes as much as does the characters. The rustic folks busy in merrymaking or a lonely girl working at a corner of a room are replaced by men and women jostling with each other in an urban setting or a forlorn figure intently reading a letter with a smirk on the face. And at times objects like telegraph poles and pylons set up against the wide blue yonder are personified to communicate their own story.
Born in 1984, Lancaster, England, Joe Simpson acquired critical acclaim showcasing his work in a number of galleries in United Kingdom and beyond. Not only did he manage to excel in a relatively short period of time but also exhibited his entrepreneurial and organisational skills. His series Almost There and Musician Portraits required considerable efforts from his part to make the collaboration between him and some of the busiest musicians of this day as smooth as possible. To provide for Across America he depended on crowd funding and returned the favours of the contributors by sending them his paintings. His favourite artist Edward Hopper asserted, The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm. Let us then try to peep into the heart and mind of this young painter.
Shay Kun grew up in an environment that smelled heavily of poppy, turpentine and linseed oil. And by the time he was perfecting his first vocabulary he already started differentiating the depth of oxide red from the earthy tone of burnt sienna and identifying the radiance of cadmium yellow from the calmness of cerulean blue. Well, to be fair, much of this learning was absorbed unconsciously by him from his immediate environment after he was born in 1974, Israel, to parents who are themselves noted artists. Naturally, his creative enthusiasm in those days knew no boundaries. He graduated from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Israel in 1998 with a BA in Fine Arts and followed that up with a Masters Degree completed from Goldsmiths College, London, England, 2000. He felt the atmosphere in Goldsmiths College to be intellectually stimulating but finding his own voice needed much contemplation from his part. In the end, after much mulling over, he did manage crafting a unique pathway for himself that he may call his own. To some extent, an amalgamation of his mother’s optimism and tender–heartedness showcased by her art and his father’s way of interrogating the darkness and decay of the age through his paintings could be seen into Shay Kun’s work.
Robert van Koesveld’s passion of photography found able allies in his artist’s mind which in turn joined forces with his restless feet always in search of wonders in distant landscapes. Still it remained largely a hobby for him until recently and only received primary focus during his many sojourns. About four years ago, he took a break from his full time profession as a psychotherapist and educator. As usual he enjoyed his journey through different places and relished the opportunities of photographing the known and unknown facets of the land and the people living there. But this time he did not go back to his work, instead, he devoted time in exploring the world even more. To ensure the imagery what his mind absorbed is presented faithfully to the audience across the globe he started maintaining extensive visual diaries. While many locales unmasked themselves in front of the camera lenses of this photographer, Bhutan — a tiny nation nestled into the Himalayas, enthralled him most.
Illustrious sojourners or a common man, who keep an open mind during their trips to foreign land, have discovered for themselves the immensely nourishing experience of travelling on both mind and body. Yet, with each of our perspectives being unlike, even if slightly, the other person’s standing next to us, an image may uncover different versions of a story to each one of us. A reflection on a dewdrop hanging from the edge of a blade of green grass, a wildflower thriving on the roadside in defiance of the tramples she puts up with everyday of her existence or the octogenarian woman sitting beside an earthen oven and fanning the fire not essentially out of necessity but more of habit may evoke varied emotions in different person’s hearts. But irrespective of that shade of sensation, it will stir a creative mind enough to let it yearn for an expression. And for an artist it is vital to be truthful to his or her own vision. While erstwhile travellers like Marco Polo resorted to cartography to have the viewers retrace the places he visited, modern technology has given us camera for capturing tiny moments of this rapidly flowing time. And while people like Robert van Koesveld are striving to hold the glimmering gems in palm before their sparkles are lost forever in the annals of time, let us not dither any longer in retracing the steps of his photographic journey.
An artist’s eyes always remain engaged in search of visual poetry even at the seemingly unlikeliest of the places. The rhythm in massive brick structures, nostalgia associated with rain soaked streets or the irony of multitude jostling in every street corner without even knowing each other hardly ever eludes Nathan Walsh. And, the artist loyally keeps on registering every mood of a throbbing city on canvas. Be it on the Sicilian Avenue, in the Rainy Afternoon in Chicago or in New York Sunshine Nathan Walsh’s mind remains ever alert picking up the glittering verses that the city whispers into his ears. He also takes artistic liberty in fusing time and space to create paintings like 23 Skidoo or Multiverse – a playful geometric maze that can only be painted through such creative consciousness.
Nathan Walsh was born in 1972, Lincoln, United Kingdom. He completed BFA from Liverpool School of Art and then earned his MFA from University of Hull. His unique artwork has been exhibited worldwide, including in Metro Gallery, Australia 2012, KIAF 11 Korean International Art Fair, Seoul, Korea 2011, Persterer Gallery, Zürich, Switzerland 2010, Strictly Visual, Lois Lambert Gallery, California 2005 and SW1 Gallery, London. His name is mentioned along with many other prominent artists in British Artists since 1945, London: Art Dictionaries LTD by David Buckman. Learn more of Nathan Walsh as he continues his exploration of urban vista through the vocabulary he is most skilled at – art.