Friday, January 20, 2012

Minimalist color in a Seago

© The Estate of Edward Seago, courtesy of Portland Gallery

My friend Renee just posted a bunch of Seago paintings I don't guess I can link to a Facebook page because of the friend thing. I grabbed one, almost at random to write about. It is such a fine one!

Seagos are minimalist, they are from the same time as the stripped down architecture that followed the second world war. They are still traditional painting but they are spare, reduced and simplified to the essentials. They are a different possible take on minimalism. Tonight I will talk about his minimalist color.

Seagos color is reduced in this painting to almost black and white, the other colors are dull and earth colors. He uses very little chroma in any color. They are all desaturated. But they are beautiful in their subtle restraint. He used a simple palette that had earth colors and a chrome yellow (rather like a weak cadmium yellow) vermilion (a warm red somewhat like cadmium red but less strident, it is the color in the lips and cheeks of old portraits ) and viridian He has varied his color temperatures to make them interesting. Good color is not the number of different colors you can use, or their brightness or assertiveness. It is an intelligent arrangement founded on the way those colors relate to one another. The best pianist isn't necessarily the one who can pound the loudest.

Notice the cool color in the light of the house in the middle, the shadow under its eaves contrasts with that by it's warmth. All over this painting dull colors are enlivened by the play of warm and cool hues.

On the first floor of that building are two shops, one red and the other green. They are the most "colored"notes in the entire painting. In most paintings they would look dull and muddy. But every color looks the way it does only in the context of the other colors around it. These reds and greens are surrounded by grays and blacks. Dull as these two shop front notes are, they are gay in comparison to their surroundings. Probably each is partially knocked down by the admixture of the other. They fit together perfectly because grave as they are, the relate to one another.To their right is a third shop, or just a wall, that is made from a pattern of both notes from the other two. There is a progression from a dull red to a dull green to a combination of the two together. That didn't just happen, because as I have said before;


Seago made that happen, he decided to make that intelligent and beautiful arrangement because the progression across those tones would be appealing. Most of the viewers would know they liked that part of the painting but not know why. They didn't have to know why for it to work on them, any more than they would have to know what key a tune is in to like hearing it. But the musician who wrote the tune knew and chose that key to make his song "work".

Seago repeats the dull red in that Zamboni ( or whatever that shape is) parked on the sidewalk at the right. The buildings roof has those colors laced into it also. The cool notes in the light struck building at the center contain the green, and the building on the left s a gray containing the red note.The sky has the same dull red dull green pattern hidden there too.

The picture is a black and white warp into which is woven a weft of dull red and green. This is completely arbitrary, he installed those colors. I expect there were some colors actually there that inspired his caprice, but the color in this painting is decorative and not observed. He has made an arrangement of very quiet subtle colors that set one another off, embedded in a field of gray and black.

I think I could probably write more about minimalism in Segos work in my next post because it is in his shapes and design too.


Unknown said...

Great post, thank you for sharing. I love that kind of painting style and now I can put a name to it!

Looking forwards to your next post.


willek said...

Wow~! What a treat to get so many postings in such a short time. I have been fretting over my color a lot in the last year, using abreviated palletes and experimenting with varying the temperatures of the colors, etc. So this was very enlightning. Thanks, said...

Will and I were just talking about minimalist colors. Canaletto did the same thing in his grand canal paintings.
(not like the Venetian paintings I am working on at all)

Now here is a question and I am not being sarcastic - if you are medically color blind, and you want to paint, is this one way that you could make strong paintings?

Durinda Cheek, Fine Artist said...

I would love to see this painting in "real life" to see the wonderful mixtures of whites in his building. Thanks for all your insights into this artist and his painting.

Prairie painter said...

Thank you for the helpful information about this painting and painter. It is very striking in its subtlety. I now have another painter to look into more closely and study. This style really appeals to me for some reason - just like you said. It isn't really obvious, but it has certainly been planned that was. Excellent.

Susan Renee Lammers said...

Hi Stape! You can use any photo I have. Thanks for doing this interesting blog post on Seago. I know I need to use more unsaturated colors. I wish I could be at any of your Snow Camps. I really enjoyed attending. I think it got me into a habit of painting out in the snow. I could use a push again!