In his picture series White Writings, Mark Tobey creates labyrinthine rhizomatic entanglements out of repetitive, white brushstrokes on dark backgrounds. His painting involves the repeated insertion and finalisation of lines reminiscent of calligraphy that merge together to form a dense (narrative) ply. Beginning with fragments of visible reality such as the urban landscape of New York City, meandering rivers or the veins of leaves, the artist consolidates the painted mark to create vibrating webs of lines that form an “all-over”. Tobey studied traditional Asian calligraphy, Zen philosophy, meditation and haiku poetry in a Buddhist monastery near Kyoto in 1934; he painted Broadway, the first work of his iconic series White Writings,in 1935. His works translate the principle of fei bai (flying white), as aspired to in Chinese literati painting, into the painting of the New York School and 1940s American abstract expressionism, which was informed by European surrealism and écriture automatique; they were one of the key influences on the work of Jackson Pollock, for example. Tobey attempted to strike a balance between his line structures, which were inspired by Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, and the Western approach to painting space and volume, ultimately eliminatingthe illusionistic space in favour of “inner space”: “The dimension that counts for the creative person is the space he creates within himself. This inner space is closer to the infinite than the other, and it is the privilege of the balanced mind […] to be as aware of inner space as he is of outer space.”1
1 quoted in Jean-Christophe Ammann, “Mark Tobey”, Das Werk: Architektur und Kunst 53/12 (1966), p. 498.
In the exhibition:
Mark Tobey Ohne Titel, 1960 Pencil on paper 60,3 × 45,7 cm Collection Karin und Uwe Hollweg Stiftung, Bremen
Mark Tobey Composition Perpendicular, 1958 Pencil on paper 70,5 × 31,5 cm Collection Karin und Uwe Hollweg Stiftung, Bremen
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