Abstract Painters

Joan Mitchell

JOAN MITCHELL 1925 - 1992



The Joan Mitchell Foundation writes on their website that:

Joan Mitchell was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1925 and died in a Paris suburb in 1992. Her expatriate years began in the late 1950s and continued uninterrupted until her passing in Vetheuil, France. She occupied a celebrated stature in the generation that succeeded Pollock and Rothko. 

She declined the theoreticism of her European counterparts, and remained throughout her career the empirical American, personally accountable for her memories and emotions. 

Her work is characterized in many developments from the 1950s to the early 90s shortly prior to her passing. 

She usually worked on multiple panels or large scale canvases - striving to attract a natural rather than constructed rhythm from the composition, a rhythm emanating from the expansiveness of the gesture or from the unrestrained use of color and the pervasive luminosity. 

The titles of her last paintings suggest the abstract valleys and empirical fields of her beloved French countryside. 

In speaking of Mitchell, others tell us of her physical materiality - how she exudes the visual sentiments of nature - the objectivity of her painting, devoid of anecdote or theater and in her own words "to convey the feeling of the dying sunflower." 

Joan Mitchell as an abstract expressionist composes with long curvilinear strokes or broad stains of color, contrasting warm and cool, often on unprimed canvases. Her perceptions enrich her work with a fascinating sense of the unfinished. Joan Mitchell demonstrated in painting just as in life, anything can happen.

Jim Gordaneer

Top Left, Self-portrait Top Right, Polo Match 2002, Middle Left, Jim in his studio, Middle right, "Send in the Clowns", 2009, Bottom Left, Sofa, Bottom right, Journey to Copa, 2012

JIM GORDANEER was my painting instructor during my art college days at the Victoria College of Art in Victoria, BC. I started off at the college in 1987 attending night classes in drawing and painting; I loved that so much I attended their 6-week Summer immersion course twice! I attended the College full time and graduated cum laude in 1992.

Jim was a real inspiration to us all in our college days. I see Jim's influence in the way I like to research things, make a million sketches and value studies before I  begin to paint. 

Links to information about Jim and to see more of his paintings:

Jim's website

Preview Magazine

Artist in their Studio: Where Art is Born


New Expressionism identifies itself by its use of exaggerated forms,heightened colour, and mixing of mythic, pop cultural and personal imagery. These artists use an expressive approach to personal subject matter.

Artists include: 

Anselm KieferFrancesco ClementeJulian Schnabel,

Susan Rothenberg

Jean Michel-Basquiatand Peter Doig.

Ambiguous Abstraction

The following images are by Mark Bradford

Recently I received an email from  VISA (Vancouver Island School of Art) advertising a series of workshops titled "Painting Today". There were a couple of workshops that really caught my attention. One was a workshop called  "Ambiguous Abstraction" which they describe like this: 

"Ambiguous Abstraction refers to a kind of abstract imagery that opens up the question of the painting's content to a range of (often provocative) meaning and associations. 

In opposition to ‘pure abstraction’ where the subject of the painting is its own form, Ambiguous Abstraction flirts with personal and political content, and “can also embrace broad topics such as memory and presence, materiality and transcendence, and the flattening of high and low culture. Following are a few of the artists that paint in this style" Mark Bradford, Fabian Maracaccio, Terry Winters, Ingrid Calame, Ian McKeever, Beatriz Milhazes, Arturo Herrera 

In furthering my search on "Ambiguous Abstraction" 

I came across "Painting Today" by Tony Godfrey 

Painting Today by Tony Godfrey: Book Cover

"Painting Today"  presents an international roundup of the best painters of the past 40 years. 

Written by Tony Godfrey a 20-year veteran at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, the volume begins with a look at the Global Scene. Further chapters explore the neo-expressionist movement of the ‘80s, photorealism and the use of photography as a point of departure for painting, pure and ambiguous abstraction, history painting, painting space, and installation painting, as well as the requisite review of the figure, landscape, and still life. Chapters on Death and Life, the Leipzig School, Post-feminism, and Painting Tomorrow round out the beautifully designed, dynamic 448-page book, which includes 550 illustrations, artist biographies, and a chronology of painting since 1968." 

For a more in depth look at this book with links to many of the artists in this book check out the blog: Flavorwire.com

Helen Frankenthaler


"Mountanins and Sea" 7' X 10"

"Frankenthaler's career was launched in 1952 with the exhibition of Mountains and Sea. This painting is large - measuring seven feet by ten feet - and has the effect of a watercolour though it is painted in oils. In it, she introduced the technique of painting directly onto an unprepared canvas so that the material absorbs the colors. She heavily diluted the oil paint with turpentine so that the color would soak into the canvas. This technique, known as "soak stain" was used by Jackson Pollock and others; and was adopted by other artists (notably Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland) and launched the second generation of the Color Field school of painting. This method would sometimes leave the canvas with a halo effect around each area to which the paint was applied but has a disadvantage in that the oil in the paints will eventually cause the canvas to discolor and rot away".  Quote from Wikipedia

Frankenthaler said "A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once. It's an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute." (In Barbara RoseFrankenthaler (New York:Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1975, p. 85)

Cleve Gray - Lyrical Abstract Painter

 "THRENODY" - CLEVE GRAY (1928-2004)

"THRENODY" - CLEVE GRAY (1928-2004)

More Threnody Pic5.JPG

In 1972 -73 Gray produced "Threnody", a suite a 14 paintings, each measuring 20 feet by 20 feet, dedicated to the dead on both sides in the Vietnam War. The series was commissioned by the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York, and is considered one of the largest groups of abstract paintings created for a specific public space.

"The painting of Threnody occupied me for the years 1923-73. I felt that tragedy had been manifested more intensely during those years and in the preceding decade than at any other time in American history. Iniquity, futile death and destruction surrounded us with little relief. This sense of tragedy in the sixties and seventies insisted itself upon me as the subject matter fro the walls I had been asked to paint in the Neuberger Museum, for I felt that the heroic space encompassed by these walls - roughly 100" X 60" X 22" high - required an heroic subject. The vertical form in each of the fourteen panels is a symbol which conforms to my understanding of reality - the inseparability of life from death, the reconciliation of opposite. Yin and Yang."  Cleve Gray

Check out his website and view the “Threnody paintings as well as other paintings, drawings and sculpture. Click on “Studio time”, a slideshow of Gray’s studio.


"Painters Eleven" Canadian Abstract Painters

Canadian Art Groupon their website says that: 

"Painters Elevenwas officially formed in 1953 in Oshawa at the home of Alexandra Luke; this formation was the result of a successful show, Abstracts at Home, held at the Simpson's department store in Toronto a few months before. 

The famous photograph by Peter Croyden taken for a show in 1957 at the Park Gallery in Toronto, shown here:

left to right: Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Harold Town, Kazuo Nakamura, Jock Macdonald, Walter Yarwood, Hortense Gordon, Jack Bush, and Ray Mead. 

The two canvases facing forward represent Oscar Cahen who tragically died in a car crash in 1956 and the canvases facing the wall are for William Ronald who had resigned from the group in 1957 and was now working in New York. 

Disbanded in 1960 all the surviving members went on to continue their careers and remaining true to abstraction."

Oscar Cahen (Canadian, 1916 - 1956)

Austin Healey 100 Engine
oil on board, 36" x 48", signed
Courtesy of the Cahen Archives
Thielsen Gallery Logo

Jack Bush

Bush changed his style of painting from abstract expressionism to colour field abstraction as a result of two major influences on his career - the French artist Henri Matisse and American critic Clement Greenberg. Bush's paintings are characterized by their muted, glowing colours that appear to be absorbed by the canvas. 

Oscar Cahén

Cahén achieved distinction as one of Canada's leading illustrators before becoming an abstract expressionist painter. His European training and maturity influenced many of his Painters Eleven colleagues, and were it not for his untimely death in 1956 certain critics believe Cahén would have become the major artist of Painters Eleven. 

Hortense Gordon

The senior member of Painters Eleven, Gordon taught art for most of her life, travelled in summer months to France where she studied and painted. A painting of hers was exhibited in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1909, before most Painters Eleven were born. 

Tom Hodgson

Both Hodgson's large abstractions and his watercolours are noted for their rich, beguiling colours and juxtapositions, as are his beautiful paintings of beautiful women - wives, lovers, children. A champion canoeist, Hodgson competed in the Olympic games of 1952 and 1956 as a member of Canada's Olympic Canoe Team. 

Alexandra Luke

Luke refined her elegant abstractions through studies with famous American artist/teacher Hans Hofmann. She was instrumental in the founding of Painters Eleven - its inaugural meeting was held in her studio in Oshawa, Ontario. Married into the McLaughlin Carriage Company family, which later became General Motors, she bequeathed her enormous art collection to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, founded by her husband in the name of his grandfather. It remains the largest repository of Painters Eleven work in the country. 

Kazuo Nakamura

Nakamura stands rather apart from the majority of Painters Eleven with his quiet, sonorous paintings. His twenty-five year study of the interconnectedness between art and mathematics, and on another level, music, produced a defining body of work, his Number Structures. Nakamura was greatly influenced by - not painters or art movements - the magazine Scientific American. 

Jock Macdonald

A distinguished art teacher, Macdonald was an inspiration to his students in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. He began working in abstraction as early as 1934, and his work evolved into several forms of abstraction and "semi abstract" styles, including his famous Modalities. He met Jean Dubuffet in France and counted him as one of his greatest influences. 

Ray Mead

Mead's work was first exhibited at the Hamilton Art Gallery in 1946. He stopped painting for a period of about 10 years in the 1970s, but after having a dream of Hans Hofmann giving him a painting lesson Mead picked up his brushes again. He achieved a level of sophistication in his paintings and watercolours through excellent composition and his use of black and white with colour. 

William Ronald

In 1955, Ronald left Toronto for New York and the following year was taken on by the famous Kootz Gallery, which represented top rank abstract expressionists in New York. Ronald produced a body of work that truly epitomizes his reputation as an outstanding colourist and larger-than-life persona. 

Harold Town

Along with his flamboyant personality, Town is celebrated for his work in many mediums: painting, collage, assemblage, sculpture and works on paper -drawings, monoprints, etchings, linocuts, lithographs and serigraphs. A master draftsman, his drawings have been compared with Picasso's. He gained his first international recognition in 1952. 

Walter Yarwood

A painter of deep, richly dense colours and broad brush strokes, Yarwood gave up painting in 1960 for sculpture. He received numerous commissions to create major sculptures for Canadian government buildings, universities and airports. In the last ten years of his life he returned to painting, during which he painted vivid, plein air landscapes.

Click here: thielsen gallery and scroll down page to see an online exhibit of the members work.

The brief bios above were written by Thielson Gallery

Abstract Expressionism - American Painters

Helen Frankenthaler, Sam Francis and Robert Motherwell

Abstract Expressionism

Check out this link at Wikipedia which has a great article on Abstract Expressionism. 

Scroll down the page to "Major Artists" are those significant artists whose mature work defined Abstract Expressionism. 

The second list "Other Artists" are those significant artists whose work relates to American Abstract Expressionism.

The third list is related styles, trend, schools or movements.

Abstract Drawing

Abstract Painting - Jill Ehlert

This is an abstract painting that I painted in the recent Steven Aimone workshop that was titled:

"The Spiritual Language of Art"

Mary Stewart of "Vancouver Island Workshops" organized this painting workshop and brought Steven all the way from North Carolina. For information on future classes with Steven in Nanaimo you can reach Mary at: marystewart@telus.net  Click here for workshop pictures

This is how Steven described our workshop:

Non objective Composition and Processes of Abstracting From a Reference

The first focus is on the language of non-objective composition. Explore what art can say IN ADDITION TO OR APART FROM its traditional purposes of describing external appearances, telling literary narratives, and expressing specific and pre-determined emotions.  Develop your understanding of what nonobjective compositions mean, and how and why they work. Shared challenges will guide you on your way.

The second focus explores a variety of ways of abstracting from a visual reference. Whenever you work from the visible, you inevitably select, distill, arrange, and alter the visual forces you find at your disposal. Here, you'll look at a broad range of possibilities taken from art history and contemporary art. Then, a series of shared challenges will guide you on your exploration and enable you to find approaches that are satisfying to you.

While the majority of hands-on challenges are executed in painting and drawing media, this workshop is neither media not technique specific, and no technical expertise is required. Features regular interactive discussion and critique.

This workshop was held in Nanaimo, BC Canada May 10-14, 2010. There were 20 participants in the class.

We all worked really big 48" X 48", on paper clipped to our huge back boards on our easels. We were all so excited at the prospect of working this large and I think we were all a little bit hesitant going in wondering how this was going to work out. Each of us had tons of room to work and paint; the room was set up so that we each had our own work station.