Maybe the only way to break down the walls of the familiar experience is through the re-experience of the familiar.

Jack Tworkov

It’s hard to understate the importance of the great museums in shaping artists and art collectors alike. When I lived in Washington, D.C., one of my very favorite past times (and something that makes D.C. such a fabulous city) was to visit all of the museums, which of course are free to the public.

Jack Tworkov. Cradle, 1956
Jack Tworkov. Cradle, 1956

As a young artist not yet 20 years of age, this kind of access to virtually every period and genre of art left an indelible mark on my young creative mind. Everything from prehistoric artifacts at the Smithsonian to the contemporary and cutting edge at the Hirshhorn Museum, the great cultural institutions of Washington, D.C. shaped me as an artist and nurtured my appreciation for the history of art. 

One of my absolute favorite spots was always the east wing of the National Gallery of Art. I.M. Pei’s severe angles in limestone, the enormous atrium with the Alexander Calder mobile and the gorgeous exhibition spaces always drew me in time and again. It was here that I really became obsessed with the Abstract Expressionists.

The immense galleries are perfectly suited for the work of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler and the like. One artist the National Gallery introduced me to was Jack Tworkov (1900-1982).

Jack Tworkov. Capelight, 1958
Jack Tworkov. Capelight, 1958

A founding member of the New York School, Tworkov’s gestural paintings of the 1950s formed the basis for the abstract expressionist movement in America. Tworkov’s early work owes much to Cézanne. 

Applying paint in large blocks that flaunt the flatness of the picture plane, Tworkov’s is best known for his expressionist paintings with their chaotic and irregular compositions but also rhythmic in their brushwork and paint application. He applies the paint so thickly that despite their haphazard appearance, the brushstrokes produce solid blocks of color, often achieving an effect of “ribbons” or “webbing”.

Jack Tworkov. West 23rd, 1963
Jack Tworkov. West 23rd, 1963

Tworkov’s work to me is and always has evoked the emotive. His huge brushstrokes conveying a sense of urgency. Seminal works like West 23rd, with its red grid-like composition, layered over blue “scratches” anchored by an elegant bar of ochre, which balances the entire thing. Tworkov knows how to direct your eye where he wants you to look, where and how.

There is something familiar in the work of Manchester-based painter, Tom Burbidge (b. 1990). His thickly layered abstract paintings, with their energetic brushwork, seem to pick up where Tworkov left off. Burbidge is a prolific painter, with a keen interest in contemporary space, luxury interiors, and modern design. 

Tom Burbidge, Further Towards a Conclusion, But Just as Far Away, 2019
Tom Burbidge. Further Towards a Conclusion, But Just as Far Away, 2019

Burbidge is trained as a portrait painter, which might explain why he’s so adroit with color, composition, and mark-making. He explores varied atmospheres, and dynamic planes and his work is informed by architecture, landscape, sound, memory, figure, mood and climate.

Tom Burbidge, Exhale, 2019
Tom Burbidge, Exhale, 2019

Burbidge employs a myriad of tools and implements to create his dense canvases, rollers, sponges, foam/bristle brushes, fingers, pallet knives, tape, pastel, cardboard, all contribute to the composition, as well as the emotive surfaces he creates. 

Tom Burbidge. Sense of Wonder, 2019
Tom Burbidge. Sense of Wonder, 2019

Tom Burbidge is represented by the UK-based Nova Gallery, and his work is available for purchase online.

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