expressionism is a prominent art movement that grew out of the US
in the 1940s. Explained by some as a reaction to the social and political
turmoil in Europe as it approached the Second World War, abstract
expressionism embraced movement, change, and individual emotions of
artists from New York, the "New World". The movement liberated artists
and allowed them to indulge in emotions without having to follow forms.
Also called "action painting", abstract expressionism was characterized
by large canvasses, free and rapid application of paint, and the complete
abandonment of thematic configuration. Put simply, art did not have
to be anything but the artist's emotional and aesthetic sensibility.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, inaugurated as the museum of non-objective
paintings in 1939, served as a critical institution in displaying
and disseminating the work of action painters. The movememt is believed
to have tilled the soil for pop art and minimalism: two subsequent
art movements that were also dominated by American artists.
Action painting was made boundless in terms of style by artists such
as Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, William de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky.
Clement Greensberg, the most prominent commentator on abstract expressionism,
says that this form, and particularly Pollack, allowed artists to
"break rules". Therefore, the work of abstract expressionists has
also been characterized as a spirit of revolt.
Cubist influences of Picasso, Joan Miro, Piet Mondrian, Max Ernst,
Vasily Kandinsky, and even Mexican art are prominent in abstract expressionism.
The art form is typically associated with dynamic creations and the
painter's immediate need to splatter, spill, and dab paint on their
canvas. Those who appreciate action painting find carefully applied
paint amidst Jackson Pollack's seemingly arbitrary drips, paint ground
into the canvas in Mark Rothko's work, and splatters of paint on top
of William de Kooning's abstract images.
However, when describing the textured surfaces of abstract expressionism,
the deliberate visual balance and beauty of the work is often not
alluded to enough to do the movement justice and the interpretaion
of such work has often been frequently described as a completely liberated
product of personal energy and self-generated creativity that is archetypally
All too often I walk into art galleries and find myself bored by works
produced by artists in the genre of abstract expressionism. I feel
that its non-referential quality has deceived artists into believing
that all they have to do is drip paint and emote. The products of
this process may sometimes be striking at first glance, however even
these can be profoundly forgettable. And I find myself thinking, "seen
it, been there, move on."
However, in Kathmandu, surprisingly, I have found work that has moved
on. The works of Param Meyangbo balance the intuition of aesthetic
sensibility with expressionism and a challenging sense of adventure.
Meyangbo, who is still very young, is clearly not afraid to experiment,
and certainly indulges in a rapid process of creating work that is
meaningful and beautiful.
Her first show Enamel Works (1997 - 1998) struck me the most. The
presentation was a collection of black and white paintings and somewhat
calmer, although equally as bold, mixed medium color paintings. Meyangbo's
work I found appealing because it is honest, deliberate, and it is
pleasing to the eye. I have heard of her work referred to as "Haunting".
And I have found some of her pieces, such as Our Youth, quite unsettling.
Her work demonstrates a mature balance of positive and negative space
and confident use of line and pattern. The strongest works, such as
Tokens II and Flower in Orange, are those that combine
form, pattern and produce disconcerting texture. One cannot help but
respond to them. Though unconsciously, her work pays homage to Paul
Emile Borduas, Mark Rothko, and perhaps Jackson Pollack, and with
modesty and honesty moves the genre forward. Meyangbo's work clearly
does not strive to replicate the method and final effects of the abstract
expressionist of the past. In particular, color pieces - By the
Waterside, Fairy Tale, and The Forest - celebrate
the fluid purity of color and light in a distinct way.
At a certain point, analyzing work such as Meyangbo's almost undermines
the honesty and the immediacy - its strongest quality. The beauty
of abstract expressionism is embedded in emotional experience. First,
the artist, to create, and second, the consumer, to indulge.