Max Gimblett, Orpheus, 2004
Gesso, polyurethane, pencil, epoxy, pigment,
moon gold leaf on wood panel
70 x 70 inches
June 19 – August 1, 2009
Hamish Morrison Gallery presents, for the first time in Germany, New Zealand artist Max Gimblett (* 1935). His work enjoys special recognition in his home country with which he has retained many links, but especially in the United States where he has lived since the 1970s. This year his works have been exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum New York as part of the exhibition The Third Mind.
The work of Max Gimblett is characterized by paintings and drawings of great virtuosity and finesse as a bridge between different cultures. The contact with artists like Brice Marden, Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock has had significant influence on his painting in the context of abstract expressionism. However, since the 1980s his cultural curiosity which had first been aroused by Maori art has been reflected by the influence of Asian culture on his work and his life.
By using the Greek word Téménos which refers to the space dedicated to a sacred shrine or sanctuary, to describe the exhibition, Gimblett does not evoke the religious aspect of art, but its spiritual dimension. The technological and aesthetic delicacy of his paintings consisting of rare and precious materials such as sheets of silver, gold and palladium imported from all over the world and combined with traditional materials and contemporary polymers results in masterful and fascinating works. The unique forms of his paintings break the convention, which automatically identifies a rectangle suspended from a wall as a work of art or at least as a decorative image. The viewer becomes aware of this quasi-votive character of the work, allowing him access to a dimension beyond time and space, opening a space of meditation.
In the act of painting, his gestures reflect an energy, a rhythm and a dance in which the viewer can participate. This participation is made possible by the perception of time by observation; time, which according Gimblett is concentric. The spectator, by following the traces of the paint brush, witnesses the beginning, accelerations, decelerations and the culmination of the gesture. For Gimblett the process of painting is not a cold cerebral act expressing the Cartesian “I” of the proud and egocentric modern man, but the Buddhist principle of non-self eclipsing one’s judgment. His painting expresses intuitive, pure energy.
The titles of his works and their shapes reflect the wealth of inspiration and syncretism of the artist as well as his interest in different cultures and his reflections on the Jungian collective unconscious. He appears to look beyond the Jungian self which is the unknown centre of personality where antinomies and the collective unconscious expressed by myths of different cultures and embodied by certain signs, such as quatrefoil (Apricot Garden, Celestial) are reconciled. By using the quatrefoil with its association to the four elements, windows, flowers in general or lotus in particular, Gimblett convokes the vital forces and archetypal transcendence of the human psyche.
This motif explains the most recurring references such as the influence of Japanese painter Senga Gibon (1750-1837), for whom the circle, triangle and square – bases for many of Gimblett’s works – alone represent the universe. (The Gaze – For Jackson Pollock 2008, Guggenheim Enso Series, 2008). According to the philosopher of Buddhism Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, the circle corresponds with the infinite without beginning and without end, while the triangle is the beginning of all forms, and the square, a double triangle, stands for the process of duplication. The approximation of the series Guggenheim Enso with “Ten Ox Herding Pictures”, which reflect the path to enlightenment in Zen, is particularly interesting, especially the 8th picture above entitled: “Self and Ox Forgotten”
Gimblett’s work is a synthesis not only of the many questions and answers posed by the history of art, but also between cultures by bringing together opposing values and principles, such as calligraphy and geometry, abstraction and figuratism, as well as aesthetic and philosophical propositions of east and west. In bringing together these spiritual considerations and coming to terms with the seductive power of images, and the intellectual and aesthetic enjoyment, Gimblett achieves in his work the reconciliation of the Apollonian and Dionysian.