Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Project Three Research - Helen Frankenthaler

Mountains and Sea

     I have only recently become drawn to the work of Frankenthaler after have seen one of her paintings in person. What strikes me is that even though her work falls into the category of “Color Field” painting, the work is still very graphic in the way that the paint is dripped and poured onto the canvas; and in some areas I could almost see her painting form into symbols or words, which I found very appealing to my own artistic mindset.
     What I found really amazing after seeing her work in person was how her images/compositions really seemed to “emerge” from the canvas itself in a way that looked completely natural and believable ( Her works to do not seem like something that was obviously layered and fussed over by the artist, instead the imagery seems to come from within and extend out in all directions and at the same time, “…The figure and ground become one” and any trace of 3D illusionism is completely removed ( After reading this, I could look at her famous painting, Mountains and Sea, and have a better feel as to what she was going for, because at first look I thought the painting was just a total mess- nothing really made sense to me. Now, however, after better understanding the practice behind her works, the imagery seems much more powerful and fitting in with the technique used to make it.
     Yet it is also interesting to my own artistic mind that Frankenthaler was interested in the “ambiguities of symmetry.” In fact when describing her own pieces, Nude and Eden, Frankenthaler stated that there is a balance between what is “enclosed and what is seeing out of an enclosure” (Brown 45). Frankenthaler elaborated by saying that in regards to her work, she was interested in something being symmetrical and not at the same time – each side of the work being different, yet still balancing out the whole composition. 
     I think this is why I am now starting to appreciate Frankenthaler’s work as some form of inspiration for my own projects. Just as her stain paintings seemed to emerge from the canvas itself, I want my drawings/writings to not seem to be layered on top of some background or source image. To be truly effective as a drawing and as writing the work should look to have been originated from its background. So for this final project I need to pay close attention to my backing image/documents because if I start to make marks that do not agree with the original, then the whole piece will come across very badly. I think though if I work to layer, shade and make my marks in a variety of ways then my works will seem as organic and wide-spreading as Frankenthaler’s are.


Frankenthaler, Helen. Interview by Julia Brown. After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler 1956-1959. 
New York City: Harry N. Abrams, 1998. 27-49. Print.

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