Monday, November 16, 2009
Helen Frankenthaler ~ Spaced Out Orbit descended from Mountains and Sea
Earlier in the week, I mentioned that Spaced Out Orbit is an example of the staining technique called "soak-stain" Helen Frankenthaler had developed in 1952 and first used on the painting Mountains and Sea. Frankenthaler had seen Jackson Pollock with his canvases on the floor and dripping and pouring his beautiful fractals. What she did was to place a giant canvas on the floor, seven by 10 feet, dilute her oils with a mixture that included turpentine and proceed to pour the paint onto unprimed canvas. What happened was that the paint seeped into the canvas becoming an integral part of it. She didn't just leave the paint there though -- working the paint with brushes and blotters. Some have said the overall effect of this soak stain was that of a watercolor with the personality of an oil. Frankenthaler moved on from using thinned oils though. She had noticed that the thinned oils left a faint oily stain around each color area. In 1962 she began to use thinned acrylics to create her soak-stain paintings. Thinned with water, the paint left no halo effect, the colors seemed brighter and more intense. During this time she also began to leave some of the areas of her canvas blank to "let it breathe". Spaced Out Orbit is one of Frankenthaler's acrylics. Painted in 1973, it is quite small at 42" x 72" compared to the size of Mountains and Sea.
Doing a search for videos on Helen Frankenthaler will net you some compilations of her life and work as the one I posted on Friday (linked here). You'll also find these two videos of how to do the soak-stain method with multiple references to our woman Helen Frankenthaler.
Stain Painting Part I from Portland State University
Stain Painting Part 2 from Portland State University