Gray Abstraction and Ozone: A comparison
Franz Kline was born on 23rd May 1910 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is reknowned for his abstract expressionism-themed works of art (Herskovic, 2000). He has been described as an action painter and was associated with various action painters’ groups during his time. Most of the works of Franz Kline were done from an abstractionist perspective, using only black and white colors for the works. One of his most influential paintings is the ‘Gray Abstraction’, which comprised of the two colors in varying tones. The painting was done in 1948 following a shift from his earlier representational style towards a more radical mode of artistry. This was based on his friendship with other action artists such as Jackson Pollock and William de Kooning (de Kooning, 1962). The piece of work demonstrates forceful use of color splashes which is often associated with action arts and can be said to be a combination of both the old expressionism and the new action artistry since it was done during a period of artistic transformation. Another artist that has undergone artistic transformations during his years of work is Howard Hodgkin.
Howard Hodgkin, a British painter was born in 1932. His schooling and early life were very formative in his painting and print making career as he went through various art schools and even had painters such as Edward Piper training under him (Graham-Dixon, 2001). It was while at the school where he refined his skills as a printmaker. He has been associated with abstraction works in most of the paintings he has done. One of the latter paintings by this artist that has gained immense global attention from ardent fans of paint works is the painting ’Ozone’ done in 2007 (www.howard-hodgkin.com). The painting depicts an emotionally charged environment characterized by slight use of aggressive coloring (Hollinghurst, 2008). This painting can be compared to Franz Kline’s Gray abstraction based on its minimal use of color as well as its portrayal of artistic skill and competence.
Comparison of Paintings
In the painting ’Gray Abstractions’, a combination of various art design elements contrib.ute to the establishment of an almost perfect work of abstraction art. The colour use in the painting is minimal, resulting in a board which comprises of mainly three colors i.e. gray, black and white. The white strokes applied by the painter using a wide brush make it attractive and interesting to look at. This is because of the contrast created through the use of thinner strokes of black and gray and wide strokes of white. The gray colors provide transition from the lighter whiter to the dark black colors. It can thus be said that the artist successfully used the colors consistently to give emphasis to the piece of work where necessary. A brown color is also used to set the background for the entire painting which makes it even more appealing. Slight strokes of blue are also evident on the piece. The painter combined thin and slightly wider strokes of black to create figurative images which can be read and imaginatively concluded upon. The colour saturation is also effective towards the depiction of the intended message. This is clearly seen in how the painter uses different shades of various colors top bring out the desired figures. The use of intense coloring in some areas and weaker color saturation in others helps to effectively bring out the aspect of clarity in the painting.
Secondly, the shape of the painting also clearly shows the abstraction that is associated with the painter. The figures are somewhat concentrated at the centre of the painting while the other less figurative items are more spread out. The shapes in the painting come out clearly due to differences in color use, and texture of the different colors. While the blue and the black appear significantly rough, the white appears a bit smoother. This is probably due to the use of longer paint strokes. The brown colored areas are of a texture is a transition between the roughness of black and smoothness of white. Furthermore, the painter used the painting space efficiently by distributing the painting figures into the available space according to the intended message. It can therefore be concluded that the painter used colors, texture and spacing effectively towards achieving harmony in the resultant work. Contrasts have also been achieved through the use of colors and differed brush strokes bringing out differences in terms of size, shape, saturation and density. This can also be said of Ozone by Howard Hodgkin.
In Ozone, the use of color as an element of art also takes centre place albeit to a small extent. The painting uses a total of approximately four colors to effectively bring out the desired message. The combination of brown and black colors in different hues clearly helps the painter to present the intended information. First, the black color stands out since it takes the centre place and has been done with slightly long and wide strokes. The brown colour in rather long and very wide strokes forms the perfect background on which the other painting elements are set. The combination of these colors is such that the contrast between the lightest areas and the not so light areas is less significant. However, there is significant contrast between the light and dark areas. Besides the use of color, the texture used in the painting is also indicative of its desired effect. The dark paint is used in rough texture while the brown areas are done in slightly smoother textures. this combination creates the impression of a flowing painting, giving it harmony and unity between the various elements. The visual impact of the painting is such that it can be concluded that the painting flows from the centre outwards due to the use of color. In terms of shapes, the painter has used minimal differences in the shape of elements. This gives the painting a rather jumbled outlook, since all the elements are more or less of a similar shape. The impression created because of this use of shape and color in the painting makes it possible to achieve contrast only in terms of color saturation and size of the elements in the painting.
In comparing the two paintings, various similarities exist as well as differences. First, both paintings are similar in the use of minimal coloring. The color shades used in both paintings are rather dull, probably due to the intended visual impact of each of them. Secondly, each of the paintings creates the impression of abstraction. Figurative presentation takes centre place in that in the painting by Franz Kline, the different elements depicted show a summary of a major theme which is that of depiction of real life figures. On the other hand, Howard used a cloud like figure to portray the Ozone. While each of these paintings uses color minimally, the combination of the different hues and saturation levels of the various colors used in each of the paintings helps to bring harmony to the depicted images. Moreover, the use of contrast helps in each of the cases to clearly send a desirable message to the potential viewers.
Although these paintings are similar in terms of the descriptive elements, the difference in balancing and the use of space is outstanding. While Gray Abstractions uses the entire painting space optimally, Ozone is more concentrated at the centre. This is probably due to the differences in color balancing between the two paintings. The use of the different color schemes in different shades and concentrations makes it possible for the viewer to conclude about the artistic drives of each of the painters. Franz Kline uses colors more aggressively to depict figurative images, which is an essential characteristic of action painting. On the other hand, the use of color by Howard Hodgkin is less aggressive probably due to the more peaceful approach adopted by his painting style. The choice of design colors and elements by the two painters each reflects the cultures underneath their creation in that during the creation of Gray Abstraction, the period was tumultuous in that it was only a few years post World War II. On the contrary, Ozone was created in 2007 at the wake of environmental management debated.
In conclusion, it can be said that while Gray Abstractions is visually impressive, Ozone is also significantly appealing artistically. This is because of the differences in the intended messages as well as in the nature of artistic background between the two. Each of these paintings is essential towards achieving the desired objectives hence the choice to discuss them. Moreover, the context of creation of each of the paintings makes them visually appealing to the intended audience.
Graham-Dixon, A. (2001). Howard Hodgkin. London, UK: Thames and Hudson Ltd.
de Kooning, E. (1962). “Franz Kline: Painter of His Own Life”. ARTNews, Vol 61, 1962.
Hollinghurst, A. (2008). Howard Hodgkin. London: Gagosian Gallery.
Herskovic, M. (2000). New York School Expressionists artists choice by artists. New York: New York School Press.
www.howard-hodgkin.com. Accessed May 19th 2015.