I was searching for something about color and I ran across a statement in a forum, something like “if you want to see how to paints trees find a book by Wolf Kahn”. Further down in that newsgroup, someone else agreed that the was the path to follow.
I wasn’t researching trees, but I was curious – who? Wolf Kahn? Never heard of him. I looked for an example of his work and I was floored. His color work is just enlightening. Transcendent. Bright. Brilliant, and a little mad. His website is a microscopic flash presentation, done through his gallery. Despite that the images are extraordinary. I found a book of his work, ordered it, and when it arrived, I was struck by the evolution of this artist from the fifties through to his recent work. His color theory and the presence and tone of the colors used to create a warm feel or a cold feel, the evolution as you watch his work change and progress – a great colorist, hell, a great painter.
The change over time in how Wolf Kahn approaches color and the origins of that sense of color and creation of abstraction shows me some methods of using color and of thinking about color that are very close to the conclusions I was reaching for already. And that is just very very cool. It jumpstarts the progression a couple of years or more for me forward.
Wolf Kahn is directly compared with the harmonies ( Sections of a Painting Like Passages in Music) of color in Mark Rothko’s painting. I had never connected with Rothko’s paintings – they didn’t click for me. Bring the color work from Kahn which works for me, subject and form and color, back from his ethereal landscapes to the simpler pure color work Rothko achieved and I see the genius I had not seen before. All of this is along the same path I was already following with color and form and perception of color.
Color as temperature, perception, emotional reaction alone, separate from form.
My first love in painting is color. Bright, brilliant color, color at the edge of what’s real. Stark raving color, actually. Color beyond the pale.