Food for the soul at the RA Sackler Galleries.
Younger generation American Abstract Expressionist Richard Diebenkorn’s work celebrates the pursuit of painting, and it is fabulous.
Even in his figurative period when he explored the human form and still life the architecture of his final Ocean Park series of abstract paintings is already alive within compositions of graphic precision. The energy of these drawings, the placing of the body and its finely tuned angles of limbs and rubbings out, create a slow and continuous motion in shallow space around the work and its open spaces, familiar territory in his later paintings.
Richard Diebenkorn’s influences are clear, and as is true of the finest artists, he absorbs them and finds himself in the process, using their strengths and combining their individuality with his, making the whole into something separate and richly himself. Gorky (Urbana #6) and Motherwell reside early on in gallery 1, the influence of Matisse hovers particularly strongly in gallery 2, finally in gallery 3 Mondrian boogie woogies, Piero della Francesca’s Renaissance structure, palette and light flickers in shallow space and all fuse seamlessly into Diebenkorn’s final gloriously calm, measured and individual Ocean Park Series. Filled with quiet reflective light they are a painterly paradise.
Ocean Park #116 1979
A delicate balance of thin colour washes, revealing some of the painting’s history, create depth and movement in the blocks and bands which are the structure of the work. Overpainted diagonals and curves make linear pathways through the washes along with finer, darker lines which sharpen up the structure and in one curving line on the right work against it, creating a perpetual meditative motion around and through the image as it picks up the faint diagonals and curves on its way to a vertical cutting through pink on the left of the canvas. Top left an acid green over yellow up against a thin band of red beats at a faster pace along with the emerald green above it to the right. The colour lives and breathes and if it does not compel you to stand and live inside its mystery for a while then go back and give it the time it deserves and you will not regret it.
This exquisite painting lives, amongst others, quietly and richly in the Sackler Galleries until 7 June.