Sunday, May 15, 2011

The magic of the ‘Monumental’ (Part 2): Tim Maguire, Volkan Diyaroglu and Zhang Xiaogang

Is there any ‘method’ that artists use to choose a physical size for their painting? Which aspect of the process plays a significant role in this decision? Is it the subject matter, idea, artistic inspiration, artist instinct or practicality? I haven’t come across any definite theory or recommended process that might work as a guideline to decide the ‘right size’ of the painting surface.


It will sound a little crude but I loosely see four categories of paintings as far as painting surface scale is concerned. Good painting on good size, good painting on bad size, bad painting on good size (frankly, very rare) and bad painting on bad size (I don’t care much about which) ;) Let’s not get into what I mean by a ‘good painting’ for it is always an up-close, personal and complex thing to write about. But let’s focus on the ‘good size’.
In the previous post (part 1), I had briefly covered the historical significance of the scale and had promised to write about some of the well-known contemporary artists who are admired not only for their expression but also for the large scale of their works. Here are three of my favorite artists who are from three different corners of the world, and are known for their absolutely different styles and subjects: highly acclaimed Australian contemporary artist Tim Maguire, talented young artist Volkan Diyaroglu from Turkey, and Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang who is admired for his large scale portrait like paintings.


Tim Maguire: Born in 1958, he has completed his education from the prestigious Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf in 1985. Tim has participated in numerous group shows and many solo exhibitions, and is represented by many well known galleries across the world. When I first came across his very famous large flower paintings, I was thrilled to see his pure painterly approach to the quite simple subject matter. The combination of a large scale, a distinct warm color palette and the dexterous handling of paint makes these paintings look majestic! Currently he is also exploring large scale print-making that involves digital reconstruction of abstract, mystic elements. His prints are also as interesting as his flower paintings. If you happen to be in NYC, there is a solo show of his works at Von Lintel Gallery till June 5th, 2011 which you might want to catch. You could learn more about Tim from his website. 


Volkan Diyaroglu: Born in 1982, this ‘young Turk’ is one of the much admired young artists on the international art scene. Initially he started his art education in Turkey, later he was awarded the prestigious ‘Promoe scholarship’ and continued his education in Valencia, Spain. I was impressed to see his constructive bold style and simple brush work. I feel that his work has a very interesting resemblance to the raw style and primitive forms handled by the great French artist Jean Dubuffet. The choice of large canvases looks quite apt for his expressive work. It gives Volkan’s work a fantastical twist and makes his work really enjoyable. Volkan has been awarded many scholarships and has exhibited widely around the world. You can check out his website to learn more.
Zhang Xiaogang: Born in 1958, Zhang is popular for his ‘bloodline’ series of paintings. He belongs to the ‘top brass’ of the Chinese contemporary art scene. His paintings are exhibited and collected worldwide. If you are looking at the images of his work without knowing the scale, they may not seem very striking. But once you understand that the paintings are in a very large scale, you automatically become curious. His figurative works are stiff in appearance, but that stiffness has a huge bundle of emotional traction which happens behind the scene. The paintings are based on black and white photos of people from 2-3 generations before, from the time when people witnessed critical social and political transitions in China. Although based on photographic references, his paintings are not realistic but are more surreal in nature. I could not locate his official website or a single source of information to direct you to, but it is not very difficult to learn more about Zhang Xiaogang, his work and artistic philosophy from the scattered information available online.
As an end note to this post, I want to express an agreement with the views shared by many of my artist/blogger friends about the ‘monumentality’ in art. Indeed, monumentality is an appearance as well as an experience which goes beyond the scale. These two posts were to discuss good art which has been executed on a good large scale. Let’s discuss ‘monumental’ art particularly accomplished in the small size some other time!

My sincere thanks to Tim Maguire and Volkan Diyaroglu for permissions and providing pictures for this post. I could not contact Zhang Xiaogang for permissions, but I would like to acknowledge various sites for the pictures I have used. A. Chang W. Lee for The New York Times B. Mike Clarke-AFP/Getty Images / Washington Post C. Dan Chung / Geotypographica 

11 comments:

Lynn said...

Thanks for part two. Really enjoyed your thoughts.

Scale is such an integral part of a piece of art. I had that experience the first time I viewed a Rothko live. No longer confined to poster or calendar dimensions, I saw it for the huge, and hugely impacting piece it really was.

Fascinating topic!

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

i've often wondered this too: "which aspect of the process plays a significant role in this decision?"

the question can be especially mystifying when the artist paints in widely varying sizes.

thanks for these posts- i've always been intrigued by monumental paintings, particularly abstract works.

Debu Barve said...

Lynn, Stephanie,

Thanks. Yes, I too remember when I first saw a Joan Miro painting live and was completely stunned with that experience. It was like looking at something totally new, which had nothing to do with any imagery I had seen in books before.

Narayan Pillai said...

Thanks for the interesting part two... very informative.

Debu Barve said...

Narayan, Thanks!

thige said...

Bonjour Debu, vous voulez voir du monumental? alors venez à Paris au Grand Palais, il y a Anish Kapoor qui expose jusqu'au 23 juin et cela semble impressionnant non pas par la taille, mais par l'effet et les sensations produits sur le public; see you soon cher Ami, thibault

Debu Barve said...

Dear Thig,
Thank you for your nice invitation!:) Ohh yes, I was lucky to see some of Anish kapoor's latest works they exhibited in Mumbai some six months back, it was his first show in India. His creations are grand and majestic! I’m sure the exhibition in Paris must be a really fantastic experience. If you happen to visit again (and they allow you to take), then please do share some pictures. Have a nice day!

Nomi Lubin said...

Hi. Want to point out something. Scale and size are not quite the same thing, I don't think. Size is size, the dimensions of the surface. But scale is size plus something else -- the relationships of the parts to the whole, or the parts to the "size." A large painting is successful (visually) when there is a "right" relationship between those parts and the whole.

I know that I just made it sound like successful scale = a successful painting. Maybe this is an exaggeration. But I do think that scale plays a much larger role than is usually realized. I sometimes think that if you get the scale right, you can get away with almost anything.

Debu Barve said...

"Size is size, the dimensions of the surface. But scale is size plus something else"
Dear Nomi,
Thank you for your insight. Yes, I absolutely understand from where you are coming, and yes we have an agreement here.:) I would be posting more around these matters in future which hopefully will cover points we are discussing here.

onkar said...

wow sir..!! this post is also amazing...!!

Debu Barve said...

Thanks Onkar!