'Entropy: Pierre & Piero' - Anna Sabadini

What I love about Piero della Francesca: The sense of spiritual purpose and heaviness of meaning in his work; the sombre, serious expressions of all his people. His measured, grandiose compositions. His emotionally awkward, worked, striven for attempts at volumetric certainty – monumental from a distance, the narrow tonal range emphasizing form, shape, and solidity. The quality of the drawn outline. His iridescent gradations of colour. The luminosity.

What I love about Pierre Bonnard: His awkwardness. His dabbing, rubbing indecision; his refusal to put a line around anything. His scratchy drawings. His mangling of shape and form. His sense of humour and use of pattern. The colour! The losing of edges in tone, hue and pattern. The negative shapes that become more solid than the solid. His everyday subjects. The atmospheres of heat and interior light and sparkle he achieves. The complex interactions of brush marks with perception.

I look at Piero della Francesca and I want to paint like Piero. I look at Bonnard and I want to paint like Bonnard. What I would like to achieve is some sort of harmony with how I identify reality.

But how time is perceived, how light and my relationship to the world is imagined depends on how I paint them – time, light and space.

Painting communicates these mysteries, but in Western painting polar versions are conveyed through romanticism and classicism.

What need does painting like Piero fulfil? The need to fill in large expanses with one colour, to modulate that colour. The need to be almost still, sitting in front of a folded blanket for weeks, and to paint that stillness and meditate within that space. To represent the world minutely observed and ordered, having time to think through this ordering. An awareness of outlines and volumes that make my heart sing.

What does painting like Bonnard fulfil? The need to catch something elusive, fleeting, now. The need to make questioning marks, to discover what I don’t know. The need to collapse into the world through the act of painting. The need to bumble along and let go of expected outcomes. The need for transparencies and dissolutions that make my heart sing. My eyes’ need for flickering movement.

Piero’s light facilitates certainty whilst the light in Pierre’s work is explosive, confusing and naked, like butterflies’ wings in motion – it is not for nothing he kept lolly wrappers, with their reflective qualities, pinned to his studio wall, whereas Piero’s horses for example, look like they are made out of stone.


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