Friday, March 23, 2012

Frank Auerbach - (London school) - An essay on "J.Y.M Seated IV. 1992"

Frank Auerbach – J.Y.M Seated IV. 1992
Dimensions - 65.0 x 61.0cm, oil on canvas

While approaching J.Y.M Seated IV for the first time from the other side of the gallery, the Figurative subject matter of the painting is apparent, a seated nude, a single breast exposed implying the female gender of the figure.

The figure is centrally located on the canvas and is separated by a horizontal line just below the vertical half way point. The tonal variation between the top and bottom halves of the background, the top being lighter than the bottom, sets the figure in a gravitationally realistic position on the canvas and feels very natural.
The female figure is constructed in a shape close to triangular which leads the viewer’s eyes up to the facial features, which are rendered in wide brushwork and include no attempt at detail. The brush marks on the face suggest a neutral/happy expression, hints of the figure looking slightly to the viewer’s left, a wide brushstroke on the side of the head also hints at the presence of an ear.
From the shoulders and breast downwards all recognizable human features disappear into a pattern of brushstrokes. Possibly a table top is outlined with a single brushstroke, but it could just be a different angle of an arm.
The pale colours of an object that the nude appears to be holding compliments the triangular structure of the body and reinforces a sense of gravity affecting the figure.
The figure’s head is framed by what looks like the back of a chair, rendered in dark tones; this creates good contrast and further draws the viewer’s gaze to the figures face.

Yellow ochre’s, cadmium yellows mixed with hints of cadmium red are put on canvas and hardly blended at all to represent skin tones and block in the figure on the canvas. Framing the face, the back of a chair is rendered in a colour similar to Payne’s grey, or a combination of the background colour’s mixed with black.
The background is made up of, on the top half, a mixture of turquoise greys and toned down cerulean blues. On the bottom half Maroon’s, Crimson’s, and earthy red colours feature.
The figure acts as a bridge between the two horizontally split background colours, allowing the deep maroon reds and turquoise/Cerulean blue greys to cross and mix to contrast with their opposing sides resulting in the brushwork which in combination with dark grey line work outlines the female models features.
Tonal value within the figure has been abandoned, Payne’s grey/mixed background colours form broad brushstrokes that create the contours and hint at negative spaces, no brushwork describing volume/3D shape of the figure is present.
The mixed background colours being used to create the contours of the figure solidify the figure’s connection to the background.

Brush and palate knife have been used to create this painting. The brushstrokes give the feeling that the painting was completed quickly which gives it a nice energy and flow. The figure’s contours are composed of several long flowing brushstrokes and brush size is consistent throughout the painting including the background, perhaps he even used the same brush for the whole painting.
For the majority of the canvas the paint is applied thickly with exception to the few sections of paint that has been removed with a palate knife. These sections of removed paint offer a nice contrast from the thick piled on paint and hint at an under painting which appears to have been done in a much washier style to create a composition before diving in with loads of paint.
In the upper half of the image there are two horizontal palate knife marks which run on a slight diagonal on either side of the figures face, this acts as another device to draw the viewer into the face and emphasizes the triangular composition of the figure.

Paint is attached to the canvas at around 5-10mm thick and by the look of the paint, it was either used directly from the tube or mixed with a solid bodied medium to add volume, no cracking is evident in the work.
As opposed to the brush only attaching the paint to the canvas as its sole purpose, it looks like the paint is acting like a receptor to the brushes movements and patterns, capturing the motion of painting in time in a similar way that clay is molded and stays in shape after the artist has put it down, memorizing the artists hand.
Painting around the edge of the stretched canvas takes the painting away from the 2d and into the 3d space, similar to sculpture. Which compliments the thick paint and expressive brushwork fantastically.

For me personally the painting, as well as being an interesting abstraction of a female figure, is a record of a time when the painting was created, and a memory of the movements that the artist made while creating the work.

Written by Samuel Kirby.