Press Release - 21 April 2011
'You are in a gallery. There is nothing on the walls. You look up into the corner of the ceiling and there is a crack. What does it mean? You don't know. But the artist knows, the artist knows what it means.'
Abstraction is the ultimate act of faith; both artist and viewer are asked to appreciate the reduction of subject into pictorial elements entirely for their own sake.
Kevin Atkinson was both well-respected as an artist and teacher and his death in 2007 left a rich visual and personal legacy. This work, Sunday, unashamedly abstract, is the product of a career in which Atkinson strove “to begin to strip away the layers” and focus on form, colour and visual harmony.
This vast canvas, riveting in its massiveness, commands the viewer’s attention. Much like the colour field canvasses by Mark Rothko, this piece requires visual meditation and consideration. The unifying circle that unites the hinged canvas is offset by the assured brushwork of crimson lines, reminiscent of haiku poems. The included detailing of a buttery cream invokes curling parchment. The sombre charcoal field dominates the entire surface, and unlike Rothko, Atkinson did not apply this in a flat wash but rather as a rich textural surface- a grained surface on the left and a rougher area on the narrower panel. It is easy to see how it was that Atkinson’s canvasses were used to decorate the stage at the then Nico Malan in the late 1980s - stage lighting would have emphasise the textures he harnessed when priming his canvasses.
Atkinson’s passion, conviction and focus is articulated in the visual power of this canvas- a complete submersion by the artist in the creative process of beautiful and powerful art.
Evelyn Cohen, art historian, summed up Atkinson’s final show at the AVA in the late 90s, “Above all, his singing, outrageous and exploratory colour, his spills, splashes and brushstrokes, celebrate the astonishing range of the human retina. The movement of the artist’s hand and arm is to be seen in his oceanic, engulfing allusions to the different modalities of the mind and the heart, to the earth itself, its veils of atmosphere...”.