Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Wolf Kahn

Deep Blue Barn, 2006, Oil on Panel, 8x10

Often, at a show, viewers say that my work reminds them of Wolf Kahn's. I have conflicting feelings about this. On the one hand, I like his work and he has had a long and impressive career, so it's a compliment to be mentioned in the same breath. But on the other hand, I feel sensitive about the implications of creating work "similar" to another artist.

I wasn't even aware of him or his work (and have yet to see his paintings in real life) when I started to paint again a few years ago. I just had this delicious feeling of knowing I could paint whatever and however I wanted. I knew that I wanted to be more expressive, rather than continue with the almost photo realistic work I had done in the past. I felt and still feel that the boldness of my compositions, the simplicity of the rendering and the strong colors and even the "do-overs" perfectly expressed the various aspects of my personality. After working and developing my work for about six months, a friend of mine said that my paintings reminded her of Wolf Kahn's and loaned me a book of his work.

She was right, and others who have made the observation are right. I see the similarities in color and composition especially. but also in the fact that we both tend to paint landscapes and barns. But, happily, I also see many differences. His work has an ethereal quality, more abstract, while my landscapes tend to be more solid and literal, I think. He paints on site, while I prefer to work in my studio, working from photo references, memory and imagination. I'd say that both of us manage to create surfaces that are luminous, yet we both get there in very different ways.

Somehow though, he and I see with the same eyes and I am beginning to find that strangely comforting.


Ed Maskevich said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, your work is similar to Kahn's but I think that your work is better. I heard another artist comment on Kahn's work that when he's on, he's REALLY on but when he's off it's bad. Your work is consistently good. SAlso check out the work of Ted Larson. Not his recent sculptural work but his pastels. Lots of barns and landscapes. Lots of hatching and overlaying of color. I look at the work of a lot of artists, absorb their ideas, distill it internally, and incorporate the parts that are relevant to me, combine it with other ideas, methods, etc in me and make my own unique image that is a reflection of me.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks, Ed, for the compliments. I do carry along what I see of other artists work, as you do and really most artists do, I guess. Oddly, I don't really feel influenced by Wolf Kahn's work, as I do others. I will check out Ted Larson's work.