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Helen Frankenthaler – Medium as Nature


Abstract Expressionism was the prominent art movement of the mid 20th century post war period.   The freedom from representation established earlier in the century led to an explosion of techniques and painting interpretations.  From Pollock’s drips and Kline’s slashes to Twombly’s scribbles the trajectory of painting and art was launched in all new directions.

The artist of this era who has influenced my painting technique, and my favorite, is Helen Frankenthaler. She invented the technique of stain painting. Still used by many artists today stain painting is the method of pouring diluted paint onto unprimed canvas.


The significance of this approach, other than it’s departure from the methods used for centuries,  is that the pant soaks and integrates into the canvas.  The canvas becomes the work and not just a surface to be covered.  The painting becomes one and places the focus on the pictorial space. Painting with such a fluid medium activates the canvas.  It’s lack of total predictability helps in creating something honest and truthful.


Inspiration can come in many forms. For HF a significant influence was nature and the natural environment.   For me these paintings evoke a sense of place. I see a destination and a journey all in one.  Somehow I think I can see what they are and what they’ve been.


The idea of place hints at the possibility landscape. HF’s paintscapes are and interpretation of the natural environment through her artistic interpretive veil.  She departed from convention natural representative painting and takes landscape and painting to a new level by focusing on, and abstractly representing the poetics and emotion of nature.



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