By: Christina Tian-Qiu, Seraphin Gallery Intern Edited by: Alyssa Laverda, Associate Director
The Untitled (Blue) series, is composed of four square-shaped canvases, all focused around the nuanced tones of a single blue. While Silberthau’s medium is oil paint, the texture of the deep indigo hues recall a combination of waxy crayon and powdery pastel. The interplay of medium imitation and the belabored application of the paint encourages a tactile encounter that leaves the viewer lost in a sea of sensation and contemplation. The worked surface quality of Silberthau's painting is one of the most alluring aspects of the artists work. The desire to touch these canvases parallels the lulling sensation of the monochromatic hues.
The blues of this series alternate and bleed seamlessly into each other, at times resembling lighter cerulean, or an almost dusky violet hue. Silberthau has intuitively sectioned his canvases with etched or scratched black lines that slice the canvas into organized strips, creating a geometric work-board in which the labor of artistic creation is clearly visible and emphasized. The black paint and penciled lines meld into the waxy blue, alluding to constructive blueprints, juxtaposed levels of planned spaces. This draftsmanship quality of the work infers careful precision against an industrial atmosphere where drips and smoke and machined rhythm combine.
While all four works are untitled, there is one that is set apart from the rest in the singularity of its dimensions. It demonstrates how despite the analogous connections within this series, each piece carries weight, and retains its own individuality. This 24” x 36” canvas (referred to as the “Rectangular Untitled”) exhibits and translates the same methodology that the other paintings offer. It is sectioned off in geometrical sequence, and the range of blue hues produce a waxy texture that congregates in expressive bands throughout the canvas. However, looking at this work alone, it is easy to get lost within the painterly and stylus-like markings. The Rectangular Untitled almost possesses a lexical quality in which the wave like black paint serves as a script that is weaved and etched onto the blue surface. A serpentine mark covers the left half of the canvas, bridging the horizontal strips into a congealed whole. The markings of textures that Silberthau instinctively creates on these canvases can be understood as a descriptive system, both abstract and referential. The fusing together of color and textures imbue each work with a hidden complexity that entices the viewer to look beyond the rich textural qualities so readily apparent.
Silberthau explains that “the starting point of each work is that each mark is needed.” The blue series clearly demonstrates the importance of mark and elaborates on its expressive and evocative qualities. While Silberthau’s other works are mainly monochromatic, “reducing color to ‘black’ or ‘white’” these blue paintings are examples of how such a practice can be extended beyond such distillation, opening up the canvas to other sensual and emotive possibilities.
For more information on Howard Silberthau, please check out our artist page for him here.