Tomma Abts's Painting Abstraction
German artist often takes years over her canvases which she lays on a table, as if writing rather than painting
In the wake of titans like Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Matisse and Pollock, it might seem that abstract painting had exhausted all of its avenues of expression – hence the movement in modern art away from the canvas and even the gallery into other media such as video or performance art or site-specific installation.
Not so, argues curator and writer Bob Nickas in Painting Abstraction: New Elements In Abstract Painting. In this superb and copiously illustrated collection, he profiles 80 modern painters, each of whom is ploughing fresh and highly individual furrows, demonstrating the ongoing vitality of the medium in the 21st century.
Take, for instance, Tomma Abts, a German born artist now residing in London. She takes an extremely hermetic approach, as suggested by her studio environment, windowless except for a skylight, with no books, pictures or any reference points which might give a clue as to her influences. She often works onto a canvas laid horizontally on a table, as if writing rather than painting – the canvas is invariably 18 ¾ by 15 inches. She works slowly and painstakingly, yet without any preset idea of the outcome – her paintings can take years to evolve, as she pursues, then abandons particular lines, colours and shapes. She will take photos of her progress on a canvas, showing how different the final work is from its earlier stages.
Only when she has completed a work does she attach a name to it. These titles are enigmatic - “Teite”, “Schwero”, “Schwiddo”, non-words denoting pieces which, as Abts puts it, “don't symbolise anything or describe anything outside of the painting. They represent themselves.” There is a nonworldy, alien purity about these remotely beautiful works, which offer an image of nothing but the creative process itself.
If you'd like to know more about the work of Tomma Abts and her fellow abstract artists check out our enlightening, intriguing and highly addictive new book Painting Abstraction: New Elements In Abstract Painting, written by Bob Nickas click this link to find out more about this great book.