‘Stretched by an Unholy Desire’

“Stretched by an unholy desire to be outrageous.” More than I care to admit, my pleasure in reading art criticism can amount to quivering at a splash of brandished lingo. I also quiver to Kahn’s paintings, which remind me of English Midlands landscape.

“These are not colors that sunlight finds in nature; they are colors that an aroused sensibility finds, with joy, in the act of painting.” (Peter Schjeldahl, quoted in the article)

“The paint spills and runs,” The New York Times wrote of [Kahn’s first solo show in 1953], “color crackles with vivacity and the brush might just as well have been guided by a tornado as by hand. Yet this is no manner for manner’s sake. Kahn is a high-spirited, lyrical artist who paints the way he does because a leonine manner seems to fit exactly his response to what he sees.”

As one who often treats the easel as a place to attack visual problems, I note the “leonine” manner that responds to the seen rather than trying to dominate it.

In an interview with the gallerist Jerald Melberg in 2011, [Kahn] described working on a painting in Italy in 1963, trying to create a modern-day version of van Gogh walking through an Italian landscape.

“I kept moving the figure,” Mr. Kahn said. “First it was here. Then it was there. And then finally I put it over here. Then finally I painted it out altogether.”

“As soon as I painted the figure out, I was happy,” he added. “Because I felt free.”

(Neil Genzlinger, “Wolf Kahn, Who Painted Vibrant Landscapes, Is Dead at 92,” NYTimes, 3-24-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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