Franz Kline

Contextual study point 3 – Franz Kline

Franz Kline – 1910 to 1962, was an American abstract expressionist who was born in a small coal mining town community in Pensilvania, where there was no much offer for artists. Franz had a very tough childhood as his father committed suicide when he was only seven years old. His mother remarried and sent him to an institution which he referred as “orphanage”.  Growing up Franz was determined to make it as an artist his own ways. He started as a cartoonist for his high school newspapers and went to Boston University’s school of Art . After finishing it he went to spend one year in  London- England,  where he met his wife and in 1938 returned to  New York with her. Unfortunately  she had a mental breakdown soon after and spent time in mental institutions. In New York he started painting murals in bars and selling his illustrations to magazines in his “Rembrandt” days style. In 1943 he met Willen de Kooning, Jack Pollock and Philip Guston, all of them abstract expressionists. In part Franz was inspired by Kooning black and white paintings of 1946-49. By then he had abandoned figurative images and had already began to explore black and white expressionism in ink on paper. There are rumours that Kooning was the one who inspired Franz to start painting in large scale using an enlarger. The result was “a four by five inch black drawing of a rocking chair”. In 1950 Franz Kline had his first exhibition at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York.

Critics have long debated of Franz Kline style of black and white painting and Japanese calligraphy .The suggestion first surfaced on his breakthrough in 1950. He denied and affirmed that his inspiration comes from unconscious sources.

I agree that at first look, Franz Kline artwork reminded me of Japanese calligraphy as well but for only a few seconds. His strokes  exude confidence, they are strong and form images. Japanese calligraphy for instance, the strokes are delicate and carefully planned to occupy only  certain areas on the paper leaving white spaces untouched. It is a very soft way of using brush. Franz Kline paintings looks as if it is bleeding out of the paper. His overlapping style also shows that nothing was done in just a few brush strokes. It the use of layer after layer, carving the image he wanted to stand out.It has a rigid structure and yet very spontaneous.  I like how many of them are very architectural and some with so much perspective and depth even though it is only in black and white colours. I think his artwork is so imposing and confident. There are loads of different directions and movement like an orchestra of brush strokes. It is very difficult to replicate his artwork even by using it only as a reference. He had the ability to make such an strong statement through his paintings and I think that is why he standed out for Abstract Expressionism at the time.

The Chair – Franz Kline

The Chair – 1950 has a lot of Franz Kline technique in it. It is possible to see even only on computer screen the texture on the canvas. The white, no so white. The layer going over the chair legs, and some of greyish on the outlines of the black. It is simple but charming. Such nice piece to just stand in front of it and wonder how can it be done!?

Franz Kline

I couldn’t find any information on this painting but I really like it! It has so much movement and the way the brush dragged some colour off the main  painting around the top and in the middle added a sort of dimension to it. Although the background is white , there are whiter areas which shows like a light. It is an interesting construction that I cannot figure out what it is but that is exactly what grabs the attention. I look near and far, squint my eyes and it amuses me as an observer.

Franz Kline

Again, this is another painting that to me has so much perspective in it. It makes me feel I am looking at it from the top. The splashes of black decreases giving the sense of going further away. Is it some sort of explosion? It is all so intriguing…. I think Franz Kline has mastered the magic in Abstract Expressionism. It is abstract, very expressive but it also has that factor to make the observer keep wondering what is exactly that he saw, or imagine in order to create a piece like that. I like how it occupies the space in the canvas. Ho the amount of splashes are so balanced between both sides. This particular paint differs from the other two above. It has a momentum since splashes like that are not possible to keep overlaying. In my opinion it feels a bit more spontaneous and unexpected than the other two .

Geraldine Swayne

Contextual study point 2 – Geraldine Swayne – 1965

Geraldine Swayne is a versatile British  artist. She is a painter, musician and film maker. She has made recent portraits with enamel in metal, in small scales ranging from 12 x 8.5cm to 10 x 7.5cm. They are portraits with very intriguing character captured by the artist. Some are fun, or serene, sexy or naive. The fact that she is a film maker make  her portraits like movie scenes, as if she has frozen a scene not in the dramatic way but just when the model is reflecting or in a transitional act. Her favourite subject for painting is people and people’s face. On the second website cited above there is  also  a variety of paintings of oil on canvas, gouache ,charcoal and ink and acrylic. She has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows including  Barbican, Carvet 22, L-13 and Fred, London.  She lives in East London when she continues painting. In my opinion the fact that she is not a full time painting, sharing her time with music and film making is what make her art light and fun. She probably put her focus not only into painting but when she does she fully apply her skills in a very communicative manner. I relate her work with Edgar Degas for its light and dream alike feeling in the blurry but not unclear images. Her portraits are very intriguing and the pornographic ones are quite sensual rather than only depicting explicit sex. It is the light and lightness in her paints that seems to make it so attractive to the eyes. I also like some of portraits out of proportions with heads away bigger than the rest of the body, it brings so much character to it. Her colours and backgrounds can be very dramatic and strong but well balanced with the rest of the scene. The glossy paint completes the images giving  a very elegant look . As regarding the questions on this module about her fluid media drawings, my answers are:


  • Are her drawings simply studies for later paintings?

These drawings seems to have been studies, an idea starter to be developed. It is spontaneous in one colour and followed a very quick flow. Unlike most of her portraits in enamel, these drawings don’t have backgrounds and texture.

  • Do they link her thinking and making in a completely different way?

Not in this case. I think her thinking and making are very much linked, it has an idea, tells a story even though they are very simple drawings with a few lines.

  • Is the subject matter the same, linked or different?

These drawing are linked. The subject is the same but seeing in different situations. I think is has a story to tell in different scenes.

The drawings above for instance have some similarities in terms of media and use of space but the lady one on the right looks like a single subject. As for the two drawings on the left have some sort of connection in expression, media and tone but I think they are not linked in terms of story or situation but saying that I think maybe the titles: Mystical beast and limbless guy might have some similar references.

These were definitely linked and I would say that the “Yellow dog” on the left was a study before the completed paint “woman and dog” on the right where the background and paint seems more refined and have more details. The face has more details, the background has dimension and perspective. The black colour in the back brings the whole image forward.

Louise Bourgeois

Contextual study point 1- Louise Borgeois 1911-2010

Louise Josephine, French- American know by her large scale sculptor, was also a printmaker, painter and feminist. She studied  with cubist master Fernand Leger in 1938 who recommend her to study sculpture . In 1945, Bourgeois opened her first solo exhibition at Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York. Two years later, she mounted another solo show at Norlyst Gallery in New York. She joined the American Abstract Artists Group in 1954. Her friends were Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, whose personalities interested her more than the Surrealist émigrés she met during her early years in New York.  Louise has a very personal approach in her art exploring themes like domestic life, relationships,sexuality and in later life, death, the subconscious and fear. Her childhood memories and traumas reflected in most of her work. Art was a way to channel her traumas and pains. Louise carried a lot anger and resentment through her life regarding her father. He was an abusive man and maintained a long term affair with her English Tutor ( around 10 years).Her mother resistance to react to it, leaving the situation unchanged increased Louise’s suffering. Her mother for instance held her love and admiration, for her strength, patience and intelligence. Louise seemed to have always worked ahead of her time, she expressed herself in a ways that female artist wouldn’t dare during the 70′. The video of Tracey Emin on Louise Bourgeois is very insightful and shows a lot of Louise’s style, emotional and intellectual expressiveness as well as her bold, straight forward and eccentric character. of her work were influenced by her relationships at the time and her surroundings. One of her most impressive work is the sculpture dedicate to her mother which was the result of a series of 27 drawings first done in charcoal in 1947. Louise Borgeois sculptures carried intense feelings of events that either was about something that made her life worth living or was the cause of her pains. It all can be felt in her sculptures sizes, shapes, textures and weight. She master the art of materialising emotions and feelings in her very own visuals. This article from the the guardian describes her essence and in paragraphs with her own words. Her approach to Sculpture, drawing, modern art, England, Feminism and spiders. Louise’s ability to use her emotions and intellectuality at the same time to  understand her angels and demons  is what made her work so solid and meaningful.

Some of her drawing series that I searched before choosing “L’infini” as reference for the exercise are:

Insonmnia – 1994/1995 is another series of drawing that held my interest and attention for its richness in details, patterns and lines. They are simple patterns but well arranged in perspective, shapes and sizes, causing to me the effect of dream alike visuals, it feels like what I am being hypnotised . When Louise said “ Red is a confirmation at any cost” is a strong statement as many of her drawing series the colour red is vastly used and it is what brings that emotion out of me when I observe the images. It is emotional, real and raw. 


10am when you come to me! – 2006 – Refers to the time when her long term assistant and eventually carer Jerry Gorovoy would arrive. Jerry worked with her for 30 years and knew many sides of Louise just by looking at her first in the morning. There 20 sheets of drawings series of his and hers hands showing the importance of care, helping, dependence, support, friendship, love. It is a very sensitive work, serene, simple and yet with all the emotional e personal context that was something consistent in Louise’s artwork. One of the pieces of this series is a large scale of 40 sheets combined for one large image.


Don’t  Abandon me- Collaborative work between Tracey Emin and Louise Borgeois- 2009, are sensitive, delicate and rich drawings made by Tracey Emin and coloured by Louise Borgeois. The result is a work that shows a strong chemistry between them. They were in tune with each other and shared topics related to both that they carry with them in their daily life. One of them is the loss of a child. Tracey Emin lost an unborn child and Louise lost a son. It a series of very feminine and emotional work with very genuine touch from both artists.


L’infini – Into infinity – 2008, is my favourite series of drawing of Louise. It is about life cycle. She was 97 years old when she painted them. It consists in sixteen large work on paper. The drawings are of female bodies, couple, childbirth, disembodied limbs and body parts. There are also shapes, spirals and the colours red, pink and white were used. Veins and the umbilical cord were also part of the images. It is powerful, emotional, raw and very intricate.

It is fascinated the sense of seeing the inside of a body in an artistic way. It is as if she was showing her internal cycle of life flowing away, getting to an end after a long, complicated, beautiful, restless, entangled and clear bold moments.I like the  effect on colours exploding, fading and drifting around the paper in some of the drawing.There is a liquid flow in it. Others are more bold with dry brushstrokes and unfinished parts. It feels to me like phases we have in life: some smooth, light that goes with a flow, and others are harsh, dry, sometimes unfinished. Then the tangles and turns and curves are the choices we have and make . It truly has deep meaning to me, It touched me in so many ways. I loved knowing about Louise the Borgeois work and her as a woman.