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About Abstract Expressionism

It lives on...

I would argue that the box of Abstract Expressionism was never shut - the 'movement' (if it can be called that) has not ended - because it could not and cannot shut. It is amorphous, contradictory and from several angles it possesses no sides at all, so the best of luck to you in finding a lid to close on this 'movement'! It lives through the material properties of the media employed and, as media shifts through time, so this work expands and will continue to diversify into new media sources. Abstract Expressionism is certainly alive and well; and the future of it is extremely exciting to contemplate. Critics are sure to find another word or phrase to encapsulate its expansion but, to me, all future art that is expressive and abstract is tied to the glorious period of Abstract Expressionism (mid-20th century) by a thread of gold.

Automatism is humbling and empowering...

I deny that random, accident or chance enter my work. I decide where and how to make my mark but I remain open to the hand diverting from the plan. I have learned not to resist this diversion. This is my 'automatism'.

Automatism de-skills, some critics suggest, but I disagree. There is a skill to recognising and employing the creative experience - that force that drives the hand through a by-pass of conscious thought. The force of creative experience is powerful and has its logic embedded in higher orders of understanding than our limited analytical minds can, as yet, achieve. Have faith in this force. It is deeply humbling to experience. The work reaches new heights. As Matisse said, "When I am not conscious of what I am doing, it's a complete success."

The artist is empowered by automatism. This is what de Kooning learned from Gorky. Matisse, de Kooning and Gorky - these three masters of art are unlikely to be wrong, I suggest.

Inspirational composition is not a craft...

Space is the key in abstract expressionist art. Space is where and how the composition finds life. Great composition is not craft. Great composition is driven by the diversion, through a faith in the automatic response. So many of the truly epic Abstract Expressionist works of art are inspirational through their complex and seemingly unfathomable compositional and spatial relationships. There is a different force (than man's craft) at work in an inspirational artist and this is enthralling to the audience. I'd argue that it's the artist's faith in this force that fundamentally attracts the audience. Of course, the audience will never fully experience the faith for themselves through reflection on a painting - it is only through the audience's own creative adventures that this gem is mined.

Richard McIlwraith