Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Expressive Abstractions

Every time I passed that room, I could see three large canvasses on the walls. They appeared to be abstract expressionist works. The occupant of the room was never there, whenever I passed by. I wanted to take a good look at those works.

One day, I saw a small made, good-looking gentleman in a pin-striped suit sitting at the desk and working. I slowed down and he looked up. "If you don't mind, may I have a look at those paintings", I asked him, standing at the door of his room. He said, "Sure"!

I discovered that there were four paintings, not three. The fourth was on the wall I couldn't see from outside the door. I was enthralled. All of them were of great beauty. One, in particular, in black, bluish grey, ash grey and white, was arresting. It was well illuminated from a window to its right, about a couple of meters away. I looked at them for quite some time, turned to the gentleman and thanked him and was about to leave.

He asked me gently, "do you like them"? I said, "yes, very much". He raised his eyebrows, in mild surprise and asked me, "Do you know what they are"? I sad that they were abstract expressionist works. I pointed to the one that had affected me most and told him that that was the best of the lot.

Since he looked ready to talk about it, I asked him if he had made them. He told me this story.

They were made by the father-in-law of his daughter. He too had worked for Philips all his life and had retired more than a decade earlier. After retirement, he took up painting. After some time he worked only in abstract expressionism. For nearly ten years, he created many works and then stopped. He had presented these paintings to this gentleman.

Those paintings changed my attitude towards abstract art in general and abstract expressionism in particular. While I suspect (actually, I am quite sure) that there are mediocre artists and charlatans out there and gullible culture vultures with deep pockets, I have realised that you ignore or look down upon any genre of paintings at your own artistic peril.

My only regret is that I remember neither that gentleman's name nor the painter’s!

Art Abroad I 

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