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The Brand & Communications Agency


Mon Jun 24 2019

Is emotional vulnerability the best formula for creating art?

‘Living Colour’ by Lee Krasner at the Barbican Art Gallery

Is emotional vulnerability the best formula for creating art?

The Living Colour exhibition explores the work of Lee Krasner (1908-1984), an American artist who paved the way for Abstract Expressionism. Krasner’s artistic development is clear from her bold self-portraits to her infamous ‘Little Image’ painting series created in the 1940s, to the array of emotionally charged large-scale abstract paintings developed later in her career. The chronological format of this exhibition complements the artistic development of Krasner’s work and provokes the question about the importance of artistic vulnerability.

In her work titled Self-Portrait (1928), the piece shows a young Krasner at work with a commanding gaze, capturing the power of her determination. The painterly woodland backdrop illustrates the early development of her infamous expressive style. This early artistic development is further inferred in Nude Study from Life (1938) which shows the manipulation of the body contours, creating a more abstract bodily form.

Developed in the late 1940s, Krasner’s Little Images was inspired by the nature of the Accabonac Creek. The energy of the collection can be attributed to the striking patterns, eccentric colour scheme and rich texture of the paintings. Krasner’s Little Image painting series is one of her most well-known collections and put her on the map as an artist. Following the Little Images series, Krasner developed a series of collage paintings marked by geometric form including Blue Level (1955). This collection of collage paintings created using disregarded pieces of work was exhibited in the Stable Gallery in 1955, offering an insight into Krasner’s innovative and creative spirit.

'I like a canvas to breathe and be alive. Be alive is the point.'

Unlike Krasner’s other forms of art, Three in Two (1956) is characterised by fleshy forms of bodily imagery. Krasner’s emotional distress caused by her husband’s alcoholism serves as the inspiration for this piece and the incorporation of Krasner’s raw emotion accounts for the success of this piece. Viewing this image first-hand, the captivating eyes of the distorted body is visually striking and portrays the emotional strain of the relationship. Other interesting pieces in Krasner’s later works include Triple Goddess (1960), Icarus (1964) and Imperative (1976). What is distinct about these pieces is that they each represent a different stage of development in Krasner’s style, from the organic shapes and limited colour palette in Triple Goddess (1960) to the colourful yet still limited colour palette in Icarus (1964) marked by a bright crimson red. In her later works such as Imperative (1976), Krasner combines a vibrant set of colours with a collage of drawings. A distinguishing feature of this work is Krasner’s control over the precise layering of geometric shapes. Unlike her later works post 1950s, Three in Two (1956) offers a form of intimacy with the use of the body that cannot be found in Krasner’s later works. This remark should not undermine the value of the other works, however, the intimacy and vulnerability that Three in Two (1956) offers is unique.

Krasner has been praised for her innovative storms of colour and emotional intimacy in her work. This exhibition illustrates the artistic development and pioneering spirit of Krasner who paved the way for abstract expressionism. We cannot recommend it more highly to any art-lovers.

Ben Pang