Visual Barometers

Randee Silv
November 2017

Yvonne Thomas, close-up, Warriors, 1952

Something started stirring. I found myself in and out of familiar, reoccurring assertions and debates. Threads, traces of thoughts, especially the ones that seem to have drifted far from my vocabulary, resurfaced, triggering questions that are still finding form. Her gestures, unforced,  bypass definitions, disperse, break with boundaries, converge. A refuge to rethink.

Abstract. Abstractly. Abstraction. Abstracting. Abstractness.

 Black space of Possibilities
Moving strongly and sure
Where crevices of time
Remind me of My Feelings
Here I come to this space
to be Real again &
High above the props
Of my way of Existence —
or Anyones —
And all of us to this Black space of
Concentration —

– Michael (Corinne) West, 1947

Yvonne Thomas’s paintings are not apologetic and have little concern about the consequences of doing so during a time when there was minimal room for women painters. They need no explanations. Movements juxtapose, resonating with immediacy and conviction. You either feel them or you don’t. They’re not telling you, they’re giving you a platform to delve towards the less definable.  

Yvonne Thomas, close-up, The Numbers, 1961

In 1947, I changed from academic discipline to pure Abstract Expressionism; stayed with the impulse for fifteen years.  The work is authentically of the time.  It’s spontaneity is close to my temperament.  There is no influence of other artists’ imagery, except for intellectual and philosophical ideas.  In time, a yearning for expressing order through geometry, as a symbol, began to happen simultaneously. Variations on these two movements have continued and have merged into a sense of adventure and invention.

 – Yvonne Thomas, 2000

Yvonne Thomas, close-up, Early Morning, 1956

I found it easier to paint large pictures than small ones.  It was the case with most of the painters, their gestural expressions took a heroic stand.  Strong feeling – always wanting to be expressed through color, form, tension, impulse, spontaneity, and recognition of the accident – was very much part of it.  Meaning comes from many combined elements. It is also a duel… the painting itself, at a certain point, seems to acquire an identity of its own.  When it happens I know it is time to stop….Reinventing the interpretations of reality has been one of the roles of art. 

 – Yvonne Thomas, 2001

Yvonne Thomas, close-up, Allegro, 1961

Canvas surfaces stay in constant flux. Her outstretched arm travels as far as its reach, curious & unpredictable.  Colors stir, entice, congregate with a rhythm, with tempo. Silences advance, recede, waver. Thomas invites you into her process, into a way of living, of being. Nothing, whether circular or angled, uncomfortable or awkward, remains stagnant. Everything is in motion.

The New Art 1942

Sailing to Byzantium no more – – thats over
Now recalled the infinity of sailing – – –
So turns the soul around that leaves
The Way – – – going on Ahead
And stays an anchor on every wave
Which Bubbles a new islande
Thousand of islands create land
New Land – – – like deeds permeating
Hell – – like monuments erected in vacancy
World Wars
To arouse and seduce our ardour
And make us strong with sensations
So that Beauty multiplied
We come alive and dream

– Michael West

Michael West, close-up, Green Apple, 1959

There’s a vastness, clear & independent, in Michael West’s paintings. Vigorous strokes charge surfaces with risk, with speed & guts. Elements fuse with each other, generating infinite possibilities yet to occur as did the abstract marks on cave walls. There’s calm & chaos, tension & resolution that is absorbed, swallowed and ignited between breaths. Direction is unanchored to impose blockades, shields, roadblocks. Free from being transformed into recognizable objects, gestures multiply instinctively. Figures are no longer focal points. Obligations disperse. Intersections crisscross.  Action unrestricted.

The outer world changes as our thoughts change although our thought is usually ahead or in advance of the world viewed materially. To disintegrate visual unity…to break up and change outer appearance is necessary if the individual can penetrate the nature of our mystic universe.

– Michael West, Notes on Art, The New Mysticism in Painting, 1946

Shadows, eruptions, collide, sway & jolt. Dense crevices open entries into the subtle atmospheric unfolding of space.  A current,  expanding, is present from the pulse & thrust of her body’s flow into layers upon layers that have assembled with accelerated endurance. Pigment as medium, as tool to unearth spiritual essence. West held no doubts about entering into her interior depths. Affected by the destruction of the atomic bomb and the Cold War, West responded by bombarding earlier works of her own with the weapon of industrial silver paint.

Michael West, close-up, Space Poetry, 1956

    Rebel March 1948

Black Hands Crowd the Angry Dark
With Tales of Fire Coughing —
Money — genius —
unlimited or even limiter
What a ludicrous price —praying —
Dismantled — disarmed —
the artist in society —suffocates —

– Michael West

Michael West, close-up, Totem, 1960

Illuminations-Automatic 1947

Words drip before an altar made of Gold
Disappearing thru space—the altar
climbing spiral shaped–the house falls
While lovers wander on their way
By a Mystic trail

The truth flourishes always
While Brambling roses inhabit seeds
From whence
But always air, earth, stars, Reason
Beginning memories, relics, endings
Of beginnings——in different ways

– Michael West

A refuge to rethink. Abstract. Abstractly. Abstraction. Abstracting. Abstractness.

Yvonne Thomas (1913 – 2009)
Berry Campbell Gallery, 530 West 24th Street
September  7 – October 7, 2017

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