December 20th, 2014

Written by Victoria Kennedy, Fine Art Consultant

Michael Kessler and the Spirit of Modern Painting

In a world where the words “modern” and “art” can inspire anything from a canvas that looks like it was attacked by a two-year-old Jackson Pollack to a stuffed shark sitting in a tank of formaldehyde (thanks, Damien Hirst), myself, and many others, have become skeptical of the nature of modern art.  Does it require any raw talent?  Or simply a taste for ingenuity and a daring personality?  While perusing through contemporary galleries or auction house websites, I am often tempted to delete the page and find solace in the familiarity and talent of the “Old Masters”.  To return to a time where the painting technique was combined with the cutting edge of creativity to produce works that were, simply put, beautiful.

Perhaps I am biased, but the more I become acquainted with the artists at Gallery MAR, and the more I pour over our carefully chosen collections, the more respect I gain for modern artists.  And of those, in particular, Michael Kessler has caught my eye.

How can I even describe his work?  Three words immediately come to mind.  For one: “Big”.  If you do not immediately notice a Kessler work by its size, you must be looking at the ground.  His panels are stretched, pulled, challenged, and taken, quite honestly, to their limits.  While speaking to him on the phone last week, Kessler said that he was looking forward to pursuing a 40 x 80 ft. piece.  Kessler is constantly changing the shapes and sizes of his works.  His Skyclips (25) stands at an impressive 25” x 114”, like a blue waterfall cascading down the inner walls of Gallery MAR.  Although their size is impressive, they are not overwhelming, but quite fitting.

“Bold” is another word that my mind evokes while standing in front of a Kessler piece.  While many modern paintings can be considered bold for the unruly disturbance of subject or technique upon the canvas, a Kessler is bold because it is confident.  His works do not seek unwarranted attention, nor do they make the viewer uncomfortable – it is quite the opposite.  Many are drawn to his works because they exude a striking spirit of liveliness and the harmony of nature and balance.  Looking at a Kessler feels, at least to me, like a form of meditation.  They are solemn, yet firm and thundering if given a chance to speak.

Yet the colors on the canvas of a Kessler are what truly evoke the word: “Beautiful”.  Most often, Kessler choses to utilize primary colors or complementing, natural tones to drape his canvases.  These, in turn, summon moods, music, or recollections of nature.  The crashing of waves against a bleak, hard shore.  The raw, warm flames of a furnace.  The patterns of golden leaves in the fall.  Or the humming of an insect as it perches on a tree.  All these feelings are captures as separate, continuous moments, forever remembered in an instant.  Yet they are beautiful because they also recall something of ourselves.  It is not only the size of the canvas, nor his advanced and refreshing techniques, but the words and emotions that are conveyed by a Kessler.  For me, it is hope, and an answering challenge that today’s modern art will be relevant and revered past our time.