Book ‘Why Paintings Work’

Why Paintings Work book cover

In ‘Why Paintings Work’ Jurriaan Benschop navigates the diverse landscape of contemporary painting. He introduces the work of dozens of painters and asks: Why do these paintings work? In what ways do they speak to the viewer? He considers both the visible aspects of painting, such as the depicted motif and the application of paint, and the concepts, beliefs and motivations that underlie the canvas.

‘Why Paintings Work’ is not just about how we look at paintings, but also about finding a language that suits the art and viewing experience of today. Throughout the book different themes come up, while looking at the work of contemporary painters, such as nature, the body, touch, movement, identity, memory and spirituality.

Among the artists featured in this book are: Nikos Aslanidis, David Benforado, Louise Bonnet, Glenn Brown, Maria Capelo, Peter Doig, Béatrice Dreux, Helmut Federle, Beverly Fishman, Elisabeth Frieberg, Victoria Gitman, Veronika Hilger, Martha Jungwirth, Andreas Ragnar Kassapis, Kristi Kongi, Mark Lammert, Rezi van Lankveld, Michael Markwick, Kerry James Marshall, Lara de Moor, Matthew Metzger, Marc Mulders, Kaido Ole, Jorge Queiroz, Fiona Rae, Daniel Richter, Jessica Stockholder, Marc Trujillo, Anna Tuori, Matthias Weischer, Paula Zarina-Zemane and Gerlind Zeilner.

The book contains 284 pages with more than 100 illustrations in color, paperback 14 x 20 cm, in English. Published May 2023 by Garret Publications, Helsinki. Bookshops order through Idea books in Amsterdam *** ISBN 9789527222171 *** Individuals can ORDER A COPY through this website by filling out the order form HERE Delivery time in Europe is about one week, outside Europe two weeks approximately.

In these shops or institutions the book is already available:

E U R O P E Athens: Booktique; Hyper Hypo, Alyki, Paros: Cycladic Arts, Amsterdam: The American Book Center, Stedelijk Museum, Utrecht: Broese, Bath, UK: Magalleria, Berlin: Do You Read Me?, Uslar & Rai, Helsinki: Suomalainen; Prisma, London: Art Data, Münster: Extrabuch, Riga: Zuzeum, Stockholm, Göteborg: Adlibris, Vienna: Giese und Schweiger,

U S A Houston, TX: Basket Books, Boston, MA: ICA Store, Los Angeles: Stories, Santa Barbara: Chaucers Books.

Worldwide online order through Walter König (Germany, Austria), Art Data (United Kingdom) or through the website you are currently visiting.

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What we Learn from Land and Sea

What We Learn from Land and Sea, view of exhibition at Paros, Cycladic Arts

On 5 August, 2023 the exhibition What We Learn from Land and Sea has opened at Cycladic Arts, an artist-run residency and exhibition space on the Greek island of Paros. The question of balancing forces, and the right ‘measure,’ connects the works of the five artists from different backgrounds. The starting point is a journal entry from the Aegean Notebooks of poet and essayist Zissimos Lorenzatos (1915-2004):

“The sky, earth and sea of Greece only allow you a limited number of things to believe, build, sketch, live or speak. The smallest wrong movement and everything can fall into the abyss. Sometimes its inhabitants have known this and have believed, built, sketched, lived (and spoken) accordingly. At other times they have missed the mark and tried to do other things which neither the sky nor the earth nor the sea in this country allow you to do. Things that the country won’t take, as they say.”

In his Notebooks, Lorenzatos recounted his trips over the Aegean Sea in the 1970s and 1980s, visiting many of the Cycladic Islands by sailboat. Daily observations about weather conditions, places, and people he met merge with philosophical reflections on language, agriculture, technology, progress, and how to live “the good life.” Lorenzatos was inspired by what can be learned from land and sea. He believed that the spirit and setting of a place offers a set of natural limitations. People who build and create should not ignore these measures, but be instructed and inspired by the environment. Lorenzatos’s writings can be read as an ode to the Aegean, as an early wake-up call concerning climate, and also as a reminder of existing knowledge. The right measures in life do not need to be invented. They are already available but need to be remembered, observed, and put into practice.

The artists in this group exhibition do not make loud statements. What they think, feel, or strive for is absorbed, reflected, and transformed in their work. It comes in the shape of archetypal figures, in bands of colors taken from houses or skies, in stony landscapes, in stories of origin, and in the act of existential balance. The exhibition presents artworks that speak about measures, boundaries, and relationships through the grace of form.

Participating artists: Nikos Aslanidis, Béatrice Dreux, Kati Roover, Sean Scully, Maria Spyraki, curated by Jurriaan Benschop for Cycladic Arts, an initiative of Dimitra Skandali. Exhibition 5 August- 30 September, 2023. Visiting hours daily 7.30 – 10 pm (except Tuesday). Image: installation view with works by Maria Spyraki (left, center) and Béatrice Dreux (right).

Book launch & exhibition in Athens

opening and book launch Why Paintings Work in Athens

On July 12 the book Why Paintings Work was presented at Kourd Gallery in Athens. The gallery shows currently work of 8 artists who are featured in the book. There are different threads running through the show, connecting some of the works, and putting them into a dialogue. For instance Michael Markwick and David Benforado share an interest in nature and materiality, yet without presenting straightforward images of nature. Paula Zarina-Zemane and Maria Capelo both stay close to the moment of conception, when some kind of recognizable forms starts to appear on the surface of the work. In their processes a compositional idea is present, yet there is as much attention for accident and the intuition of the painter’s hand at work. Walking through the exhibition, further connections can be discovered. The participating artists are Nikos Aslanidis, David Benforado, Maria Capelo, Béatrice Dreux, Andreas Ragnar Kassapis, Michael Markwick, Paula Zarina-Zemane, Gerlind Zeilner. In the book around 30 additional artists are featured.

Until 6 August Kourd gallery is open during weekdays (Mon-Friday, 12-8 pm) at Kassianis 4 in Athens. From 7 August it will be closed for holidays. Late August and early September the show can be visited by appointment. Further announcements will be made.

A Grammar of Gestures in Athens

Exhibition view A Grammar of Gestures

‘A Grammar of Gestures’ is an international painting exhibition. Human figures, animals, or elements of landscape appear in the works on display, but these motifs present themselves neither in a singular, unambiguous way, nor as a hard subject matter. Rather, the center of attention is on the dynamics of shapes, on the ability of forms to flip and change appearance while you are looking at them. This shifting has to do with the way the motifs are executed, with the grammar of painterly gestures that is involved in the conception of the works.

For David Benforado (image left) the canvas is both a possibility to evoke a landscape as a surface that reflects an inner state of being, and a panel of thoughts. What appears to be a night landscape might change into an internal view when reading the title of the work ‘Ultrasound.’

Béatrice Dreux (image right) uses simple motifs like a moon, a cloud, or a rainbow, and from there, she develops the forms in a process of layering and detailed surface treatment until they gain an inner strength. For Dreux painting is a language in itself. When she paints, she is not aiming to tell a story, or make some statement about subject matter. Instead it is about texture, gesture, color, and form, and how these elements together on the canvas speak to us directly.

“A Grammar of Gestures” is on view till 18 March 2022 at Kourd Gallery in Athens. With Maria Capelo, Mark Lammert, Michael Markwick, Beatrice Dreux and David Benforado.

Taking Root at KIT Düsseldorf

In a world full of conflicting interests and beliefs, how do artists root themselves? Where do they find their sense of direction? These questions underlie the exhibition Taking Root. The assumption is that the eleven artists presented here did find some roots. They have developed a clear and insistent focus in their practice, and that is what gives their work depth.

For a tree, life without roots is not possible. It needs a stronghold, right underneath, in order to grow and stay firm, to endure storm and thunder, and to maintain resilience. One can assume that similarly, human beings find some “nutrition” in the places where they grow up. Yet, those places are not the only ones where developing roots happens. Artists can pick their roots, collect them on their way through life, or search for them in places where they are not yet familiar. After all, humans are mobile beings. And for humans, roots are not just a matter of physical circumstances; they can reside in thoughts, memories, beliefs, and traditions.

Taking Root brings together the work of eleven artists. Some of these artists grew up close to nature; for others, the city has been their natural environment. Some of them are young artists, who in recent years have started their own studio practices. Others have been working for decades already, and have had more options to develop their roots. Together, the participants span two generations of contemporary artists. Most of them come from Europe, yet in terms of landscape and cultural climate, their backgrounds are diverse. One is from the USA, which is itself a country with roots in Europe. 

In times when God is declared dead, or has been hijacked by terrorists, when political leaders can be liars and fakes, the question is where to find understanding and beliefs, and additionally, where to find the confidence and context from which to act? The answer goes inside, into the imagination and reflection of the artists. And it leads into the traditions that have shaped them. These eleven artists have been selected for this show not necessarily because their work is about roots, or depicting it as a theme, but rather because their work has roots. The artists have been able to ground themselves in the present, and find a sense of direction through anchor points in nature, religion, art, or culture. They have developed an interest that brings their work into focus.

The artists in Taking Root do not usually find their artistic incentives in the daily news or in politics. Their knowledge is more indirect, coming from stones, stock photos, walks, landscapes, icons, paintings, plants, children – from all possible sources. There are many situations and observations that guide them. They do not preach or illustrate a particular belief. They make their work as artists, through searching and delving and developing their own discipline – that is enough of a statement. You can sense in their work that they know something.

Even though art is not necessarily sacred territory, it offers stretches of land where a different world is possible – not corrupted, and not adrift. It can offer an environment where you actually want to spend time, a place that is nurturing for the mind, body, and soul. The Kunst im Tunnel offers a good shelter, with solid walls, to create some distance to the physical and digital traffic around, to the hustle of city life, to the problems of our times. The generous tunnel space filled with the works of eleven contemporary artists allows a time out – and offers itself as a place to reconnect and take root.

KIT, Mannesmannufer 1, Düsseldorf, exhibition runs through 26 January 2020 and is open Tue-Sun 11 – 18 h