Brad Kunkle

Brad Kunkle
Gold is an extraordinarily malleable material. When hammered into very thin sheets, a kind of foil called “gold leaf”, a very small amount can cover a relatively large area, and it can be applied to surfaces for decorative effect.

Gold leaf has been applied to art objects and decorative surfaces through much of recorded history. The most common application familiar to contemporary artists is in the gilding of picture frames.

New York based artist Brad Kunkle, who has a background applying metal leaf as a decorative artist when he was younger, incorporates gold and silver leaf directly into his oil paintings, utilizing the material both for its symbolic and physical and visual properties.

Kunkle uses a very controlled, almost monochromatic palette in his paintings, the subjects of which are women, either in landscapes or amid elements of nature that are often in flux or in motion and in defiance of gravity or other natural laws.

Kunkle uses his metallic elements, pushed forward by the grisaille-like palette, to emphasize these magical or metaphysical suggestions, giving his images a kind of implied magic, perhaps coming full circle to one of the characteristics that has been ascribed to precious metals, and gold in particular, throughout their historic use in art related to religion and ritual.

Kunkle’s work in currently on display in a solo show, The Women in the Fields of Gold, at the Arcadia Fine Arts gallery (Soho) in New York that runs until May 5. 2012.

Unfortunately, the Arcadia gallery’s website (though much improved over its previous versions) has navigation within a Flash file, and I can’t give you direct links. From the home page, choose: Exhibitions: Soho for a view of works in the show (while it’s current), and select the artist’s name from the main list on the home page to view his work as represented by the gallery at other times.

There is a Step by Step process series on Underpaintings.

Van Gogh: Up Close

Van Gogh: Up Close
As I’ve suggested before, Vincent van Gogh’s work was much more varied and diverse than most books on the artist, which tend to take the safe path of presenting his “greatest hits” over and over, would lead you to believe.

Van Gogh: Up Close, an exhibition that is toward the end of its run at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and then moves to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, focuses attention on a range of his lesser known works, primarily from the later part of his career and with a theme of intimate subjects, both landscape and still life.

There are still examples of his sweeping views of fields and farms, but also the less frequently seen subjects of “sous bois” (undergrowth) paintings, which immediately became favorites of mine, and his remarkable paintings of simple grasses, in which he sees subjects where other artists might see nothing of interest. And though the famous sunflowers are represented by the Philadelphia Museum’s iconic piece of the golden topped vase, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s sunflower blossoms as still life, there are also still life paintings different from those we are used to seeing.

Van Gogh’s strikingly textural use of paint is evident in several pieces, brush strokes that are so three dimensional they look as though they were just laid down, a characteristic often evident in his more famous works. One of the things that struck me, however, in comparing these paintings to many of his more well known works, was his use of directional strokes.

Van Gogh, whether intentionally or as a byproduct of his efforts to express what he saw, was a master of the application of brushstrokes that move across and around forms, through skies and backgrounds and lead your eye through his paintings in a way quite unlike any other artist. These effects are frequently combined with his remarkable tendency to mix outlines and other elements of drawing into his paintings.

Even in a simple still life subject of apples, grapes and pears, in which any other artist would have painted the highlights on grapes with a simple horizontal stroke of lighter color, Van Gogh has used a vertical hatching of strokes to define them, imparting a fascinating textural quality — but not for a moment reducing their presence as grapes.

In other images his strokes point toward the focal point of the painting, leading you in like a Photoshop Zoom filter. Somehow these elements captured my attention more in these works in which he also played with focus and depth of field and frequently portrayed distant and close objects in the same scene.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art does not have much of a selection of images from the show on their website, but the National Gallery of Canada does. On this page, the National Gallery has been posting a new image from the show every week, to continue up to the opening on May 25. As of this writing they are up to 21 images. (Click on images to view larger versions.) I’ve also linked below to a few images not yet posted that I made note of and looked up elsewhere.

There is also a book from the exhibition, available from the Philadelphia Museum and the National gallery, as well as Amazon and other booksellers.

Van Gogh: Up Close is on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until May 6 (timed paid or member tickets required, but some are still available according to the website). It moves to the National Gallery of Canada where it will be on display from 25 May to 3 September, 2012.

Van Gogh is an artist for whom many misconceptions and popular assumptions, and the very brilliance of his fame, often obscure the actual artist. Van Gogh: Up Close, by focusing on less familiar works and more intimate ones as well, gets us a bit closer to Vincent van Gogh, the painter.

Tom Bagshaw

Tom Bagshaw
Tom Bagshaw is an illustrator and gallery artist based in Bath, England.

He works digitally in a style that often combines refined rendering with background patterns or textural elements. His compositions often feature women who are looking out of the canvas, engaging the viewer directly, often with what seems to be a challenging stare.

His work is sometimes macabre, and laced with dark humor.

The galleries on his website are divided into a showcase, two portfolios and an archive. You can find additional images, including sequences of work in progress, on his blog.

In addition, he has a presence on the Behance Network that features larger versions of his images, often supplemented with detail crops.

Bagshaw, who has also been known by the handle “Mostlywanted”, offers limited edition prints of his most popular images on his Mostlywanted Shop.

New Mucha Foundation website

New Mucha Foundation website: Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha
Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha was a remarkable Czech painter and graphic artist who occupies a unique position in the history of art.

His name is essentially synonymous with “Art Nouveau” an art movement he helped start (it was originally known as “Mucha Style”), but from which he later attempted to distance himself. His posters and package designs are among the most famous and iconic in art, yet the work for which he most cared and would have preferred to be remembered is still unknown to many.

His remarkable “Slav Epic” (my post here) is a series of physically enormous and visually stunning canvasses depicting the history of the Czech and Slavic people (images above, bottom four). This series, along with his other work as a figurative painter and draftsman, has seldom been emphasized in the numerous books on Mucha and Art Nouveau, and has largely gone unknown, even to those with a passion for his poster art.

The Mucha Foundation, started by family members after the artist’s death, is devoted to preserving and promoting the work of Mucha and his legacy in all of its diverse styles.

The foundation has long had a web presence, which I’ve mentioned in my previous posts on Mucha, but they have just unveiled a beautiful, completely redone website that is much better suited to presenting the artist in the light he deserves.

There are a variety of new features, and most importantly, an expanded and better organized gallery of the artist’s work.

There is biographical information, of course, but instead of a simple bio page, much of it is presented in a nicely done interactive timeline of the artist’s life, with pop-up detail images and links to more complete articles on the individual works.

The gallery can be browsed by theme, works, or medium: paintings, posters, decorative designs, book illustrations and drawings. There is also a gallery of photographs.

You can even download black outline copies of Mucha works for coloring!

As you range through the works, particularly if you view “All” and see his various styles intermixed, you will begin to get a feeling for the breadth and depth of his accomplishments.

My one disappointment with the new site is that, given the detail in his graphic work and in particular the astonishing scale of his beautiful Slav Epic paintings, the images on the site are on the small side (undoubtedly made all the more noticeable by my recent visit to to the Google Art Project).

Hopefully the images might be supplemented with larger versions in the future that can do his work justice to a greater degree than the current size. I sincerely hope the site’s planners are not deliberately restricting the size of the images with some misguided notion of “protecting them” from being used. (First of all, Mucha’s work is in the public domain in most countries and may be freely reproduced; secondly anyone with access to a Mucha book and a $50 scanner with a de-screening filter can produce images in much higher resolution than are ever likely to be posted on the web.)

That being said, what the site lacks in image size it more than makes up for in the depth and variety of the image collection, which currently numbers over 300 works, as well as the quality of reproduction and color fidelity. Even if you’re familiar with Mucha’s less commonly displayed work, there may be surprises and revelations for you here.

I’ve suggested before that Alphonse Mucha is an artist whose status and place in the history of art should be reevaluated and raised considerably.

The new Mucha Foundation website is a wonderful source for exploring the diverse range of Mucha’s work, and discovering the less well known but extraordinary painter beyond the more familiar poster artist.

J.M.W. Turner on Google Art Project

J.M.W. Turner on Google Art Project
More visual splendor from the terrific new version of the Google Art Project: over 236 artworks by Joseph Mallord William Turner from various museums, with which to mark his birthdate of April 23rd, 1775.

The images range from his luminous paintings, with their striking, light filled landscapes, to sketches, drawings and watercolors, both roughly indicated and polished.

I particularly enjoy being able to tour through some of his lesser known drawings in detail.

Though all of the images aren’t in the super-high resolution that is the hallmark of the best reproductions in the Google Art Project, all are at least large enough images to make seeking them out worthwhile.

There is a video on YouTube from the Frick Collection, that references the project and focuses on two of Turners harbor scenes.

Carolyn Pyfrom

Carolyn Pyfrom
Carolyn Pyfrom is a painter based here in Philadelphia whose rough edged textural style, coupled with strongly geometric compositions, gives her work a satisfying sense of unity and visual strength.

She works with a muted, carefully controlled palette that further serves to accentuate the textural quality of her work.

Pyfrom studied Japanese art and culture at Obirin University in Tokyo, and received a Bachelor of Arts from Troy University in Alabama, where she pursued an interesting double major in Studio Art and Mathematics. She continued her studies at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, where she also served as a student drawing instructor.

She is currently a member of the Adjunct Faculty at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The galleries on her website are apparently divided by place; whether that also corresponds to periods in time, I don’t know. I particularly enjoy those compositions in which she plays with an interior space, usually a studio, in which she has placed her model. Sometimes she portrays herself reflected in a mirror, but not in traditional self portrait configurations, with the mirror catching the interior space at unusual angles.