This exhibition brings together a series of abstract paintings, drawings and prints that share a visual sensibility and an approach to abstraction that favors the spontaneous, organic, uninhibited and immediate. In watercolour, a ‘bloom’ refers to the migration of pigment from wetter to drier surfaces, a process in which chance is at play and the material qualities of water, paper and paint are allowed to enact their will on the picture plane. This technique is evident in the ten watercolour paintings by Harold Klunder, which formed the starting point for this exhibition.
Klunder visited Lethbridge as a sessional instructor at the University of Lethbridge from 1997-1998, and during this time created 70 watercolours like the ones in Bloom. Setting himself the task of completing two paintings per day, Klunder created a set of parameters to work within, placing emphasis of the method of working rather than the outcome. When speaking of this process Klunder said “There was very little intent except to feel free…In watercolour there is no going back. It’s beautiful, because there is this sense of urgency, the opportunity to succeed or to fail miserably.” In these works, Klunder is as much interested in the experience of art making as he is in the aesthetic qualities of the finished painting. Like many of the other works in Bloom, Klunder’s watercolours favor an organic abstraction combined with an interest in the physical properties of the medium and a tendency towards a process that is uninhibited, loose and automatic.
Though the artists in this exhibition span great lengths in time, geography and artistic movement, they represent a narrow cross-section of artists who have engaged in abstraction throughout art history. From Henri Matisse, who expanded the limits of representation by highlighting painting’s unique propensity for conveying emotional, subjective experience through the use of expressive brushwork and intense, non-local use of colour, to Jules Olitski, an artist engaged in Colour Field painting as a means of attaining openness and clarity. From Jean Arp, a member of the Zurich Dadaists who rejected logic and rationality in favor of absurdity and chance, to Helen Frankenthaler, an artist who literally dissolved the distinction between foreground and background through a process of staining raw canvas.
While the artists’ intentions are diverse, the works represented in this exhibition share an approach to abstraction that, like a bloom, suggests a state of potential, a moment imbued with the promise of creation– they seduce us, beg our attention, and ask us to stop and smell the roses.