The perception that abstract art focuses too exclusively on the formal elements of painting, with its ultimate, if not logical, conclusions being the Abstract Expressionism and/or Geometric Abstraction of the 1940s and 50s, led to art critic Clement Greenberg predicting in 1960 that “the self-reflective language of abstract painting could only lead to an exhaustion of its possibilities and the death of the medium.”1 The language of abstraction has, however, remained relevant for subsequent generations of artists who have revisited and reinvented the language. Jan-Henri Booyens is a prime example of this new sensibility.
As a contemporary artist, his work does not harp back to that of the modernist stylistic trends of the mid-twentieth century, but rather connects to a later group of minimalist and conceptual artists including Brice Marden, Richard Deacon, Terry Winters, Bernard Frize, Sol LeWitt and James Siena, artists who all at some stage or another employed a type of swirling infinity line that seems to curl and twirl endlessly on the picture plane, as is the case in the present lot.
Abstraction today has as many justifications as it has artists working in an abstract way. It is regarded variously as an expression of the individual psyche (certainly in the case of Booyens) or as a set of conventions that questions this individuality. “Some critics argue that abstraction probes the essence of nature, others that it reflects the artifice of the urban world, yet others that it explores the secret world of private feeling. For some it is a harbinger of spiritual truth, for others it offers a celebration of obdurate matter.”2
1. Clement Greenberg (1960) ‘Modern Painting’, in Daniel Sturgis (et al) (2011) The Indiscipline of Painting: International Abstraction from the 1960s to Now, St Ives: Tate St Ives. Page 5.
2. Eleanor Heartney (2008) Art & Today, London: Phaidon. Page 66.
Acquired from the artist by the current owner.