April 2019



Untitled 1980 no.2

Untitled 1980 no.2
acrylic on canvas
66 x 72 in.


Untitled 1980 no.2


Untitled 1980 no.2 was painted roughly in the middle of a 17-year period of abstraction between 1970/71 and 1987. My primary focus during that time, as well as in my subsequent representational work, has been to create work based on the ideas of change and transformation. That is focusing on the idea that the identity of everything is transitory in our constantly changing universe. In my abstract work these ideas are conveyed through graphic forms representing incompleteness, movement, disintegration and destruction. I see these forms as being in flux with their identities open to interpretation by the viewer. As such the works represent change, not only through the depiction of forms in transformation, but also by the multiplicity of their interpretations and their shifting identities through the transformation process.

Initially the abstract period consisted of compositions constructed of similar or homogenous forms. Over time however the compositions morphed into ones made up of unique or distinctive forms. Untitled 1980 no.2 is a classic example where the forms take on a greater degree of individuality. For instance, note the diversity of forms and their relationships in the lower left quadrant of the painting. In that area a field of vertical ellipses serves as a background for the large E-reverse-E form in the extreme lower left, the smaller acute-angled chevron shape to its right, the inverted clothes-hanger shape beyond its tip, the negative-space cross shape and its corresponding pink enclosure above the field, and the arrowhead shape in the center of it. These forms, like the others in the painting, are unique and at the same time lack specific recognizable identities.

To help portray change and transformation I have also included forms and relationships that imply movement. This can be seen in the shifting or implied falling-type of movement in the painting. As one reads the painting from upper left to the upper right and then down to the lower right the forms start as vertically stable, then toward the right shift in angularity, and then dramatically shift to almost horizontal at the bottom. This sense of movement can also be seen in the relationship of various other forms in the painting. For example the changing positions of the violet-colored triangles "falling" from the top left, and the chain of kite-tail forms snaking horizontally through the mid-lower right, both imply movement.

Spatial dynamics is another aspect of Untitled 1980 no.2 that helps portray change and transformation. With a quick glance one can see that the painting contains multiple spaces without any horizon, sky, or ground plane to create a sense of up and down. That type of spatial relationship is much different than, for example, a traditional landscape painting that usually contains only one contiguous space. The fractured space in the painting thereby creates an unsettling spatial complexity that evokes a space in flux, one morphing from one type of space to another.

Together the diversity, movement and rhythm of forms, as well as the spatial dynamics in Untitled 1980 no.2, all lead to a visual complexity that provides the viewer with a rich and exciting visual experience. An experience that I hope will lead to endless hours of discovery and enjoyment.

- Brian Mains, 2019