“It is not a matter of painting life. It’s a matter of giving life to a painting.” (Richard Diebenkorn)
In 2012, Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #48 became the most expensive picture by the artist ever auctioned when it went for $13.25 million at Christie’s New York. The “Ocean Park” series are Diebenkforn’s most famous works. There are over 135 paintings in the series, a result of 18 years work, which began when he moved to Santa Monica California in 1967. Until June this year there is a rare opportunity to see a few of these works on display in London.
Richard Diebenkorn is a household name in his native America and his work can be found in almost every major US collection, yet he is largely unknown in Britain. He was one of the key artists in the California School of Abstract Expressionism, famous for his use of colour and sensitivity to light and space. In fact he is considered by many to be one of America’s greatest post-war painters.
The Royal Academy in London has brought together a selection of his work covering three key periods of his career. The exhibition pays particularly close attention to the artist’s transitions between genres. For Diebenkorn moved from abstraction to figurative work and back to abstraction during his career, establishing himself as an accomplished painter in both disciplines. According to Ian McKeever RA: “Although appearing counter-intuitive in going from abstraction to figuration, then back to abstraction, the trajectory of Diebenkorn’s work does in fact pursue a clear inquiry into the nature of what, in painting abstraction might be (ref: RA Magazine issue 126)
The works are subtle. They pull you in and touch you with their brilliance. They are satisfying to view, calm and gentle, yet none-the-less dramatic and in our modern world of moving image and art that strives to call attention to itself, his paintings are a simple reminder of the ability of some paintings to hold their own. These are paintings that stay with you long after you leave their presence.
However, some may be disappointed by the small number of works on show, for there are only around 50 works on display, but it is an accomplishment by the RA to bring even 50 of his pieces to Britain and it is a rare privilege to see his work here.
Richard Diebenkorn is at the Royal Academy of Art, in London from 14th March – 7th June. For more information about the exhibition, click here: www.royalacademy.org.uk
There is one organisational quirk to the rooms. Regular visitors to exhibitions at the Sackler gallery may be used to viewing the rooms in a clockwise direction. This exhibition is organised anti-clockwise and to enjoy the full impact and progression of his work it is best to turn right in the first room rather than going straight ahead as one might usually.