Spirit of Modernity

Oil painting “KM” made in 2013 by Enrico Bach. Photos courtesy of Guangdong Museum of Art

Acrylic painting “Guarania” made in 1992 by John McLean.

An exhibition hall at the Guangdong Museum of Art.

Displaying 80 pieces of abstract paintings by two extraordinary and leading artists from Britain and Germany, two solo exhibitions entitled “Like Singing and Dancing: John McLean’s Abstract Painting” and “Enrico Bach: Borderline” are currently being shown at the Guangdong Museum of Art through April 20.

“John McLean (born in 1939) is a renowned British artist whose abstract paintings have been highly praised by Clement Greenberg, a famous U.S. art critic. Enrico Bach (born in 1980) is one of the most outstanding young artists in Germany,” says He Jinfang, one of the curators of the two exhibitions.

Joy of modern entertainment

Inspired by modern Western artists such as Henri Matisse, McLean does not utilize appearances as seen in the outside world. Instead, he employs abstract forms to express his personal feelings on modern entertainment such as outing and traveling on short public holidays. Adopting bright colors, he intends to showcase the pleasure of beautiful scenic spots. For example, he uses bright yellow and orange painted with freehand brushstrokes to convey a traveler’s excitement upon seeing dynamic Spanish castles in his work “Alcazar.” In contrast, the harmonious and graceful colors in regular shapes in his work “Chateauneuf” present serene delight upon beholding elegant French castles.

Another major part of modern entertainment is listening to music, which has become available at any moment for modern people. Fascinated by music, McLean enjoys creating paintings with musical effects, which are generated by the organization of abstract formal elements such as geometric shapes, pure colors and diverse compositions. For instance, the vivid triangles arranged in a circle and painted with contrasting colors in his work “Guarania” (a music style in Paraguay) resemble jumping and flowing musical notes.

Modern visual environment

In addition to various modes of entertainment, the visual environment in the world has also changed greatly in the 20th century, now many people are surrounded by modern architecture and furniture which are characterized by straight lines and geometric shapes.

Influenced by the modern visual environment, Bach creates his abstract paintings using mainly straight lines, which are reminiscent of modern buildings and many household products. He discovers various abstract structures from the details of modern buildings such as windows, floors and facades. Although he never depicts the actual appearances of these details, the rigid lines and hard corners in his works convey the rational temperament of modern architecture.

At the same time, he also produces the illusion of texture, volume and space by applying light and shadow upon the color surfaces, which makes his works refined and unique among many abstract painting styles in the world.

For instance, his work “UTHGR” creates a magical space by mingling flat surfaces, three-dimensional blocks and perspective effects. The intertwining grey patches on it are painted so smoothly without any traces of brushstrokes so that the work extraordinarily radiates the breathtaking coolness of modern design.

Apart from architecture, Bach’s paintings also reflect the contemporary digital world. For example, in his work “RGBG,” the small lattice rows produce an unusual image which looks like computer screens, transmitting the sense of super order and precision of scientific technology.

“Though the painting styles of McLean and Bach are different, they both employ abstract forms to express their feelings on the modern world, manifesting the spirit of modernity, which also means that their works are open for viewers’ free imagination,” remarked Yang Dayu, one of the organizers of the exhibitions.

(The writer is a researcher at the Guangdong Museum of Art)

Venue: Halls 5, 6, 8 and 9, Guangdong Museum of Art

Add: 38 Yanyu Road, Ersha Island, Guangzhou

Date: Now through April 20

Time: 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays

Tel: (020) 8735-1468




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