Mark Rothko

Red Orange Orange on Red, Mark Rothko, 1962

When I did my first sketches of colour fields I had Rothko in mind when I used a blur shader to soften some of the hard edges. Now I’m thinking about using sine waves with various contrasts to provide both stripes and softer gradients. This way I can represent highly dense images without increasing the number of parameters. For example, this could allow things like one pixel alternating stripes in complimentary colours that was inspired by the stippling patterns in some of Robert Irwin’s work.

There is certainly some romanticism of ‘primitive’ artworks in Rothko’s early surrealist works, which are strange to read from a contemporary post-colonial perspective. The background of the work certainly reads as Modernist and there is an influence of Jungian archetypes, dreams, the unconscious and states of consciousness. During this period there is an interesting attempt to fuse a social awareness with formalism. Rothko has an interesting perspective on evolution of style, as quoted from Claudine Humblet’s The New American Abstraction (1950–1970): “The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer.” This seems quite aligned with some of my thinking during my Masters where the act of art-making allows what is technically possible to change what the concept of a work is. There is also that sense of the work blending with the experience of the viewer to create a unity of experience. One small formalist point of note is that Rothko intentionally avoided exploiting colour theory, which is an interesting precedent for the ZF, whose use of colour will be highly unconstrained.