Lot 133: MARK TANSEY
Contemporary Art Part I
May 13, 2010
New York, NY, USA
Signed, titled and dated “Tansey ‘Redeployment’ 1995” on the reverse.
Everything has vanished, only a mass of material has remained from which the new forms will be built… Kazimir Malevich in D. Crone, Kazimir Malevich: The Climax of Disclosure,
London, 1991, p. 1
Mark Tansey’s vivid paintings represent a variance of deconstruction: reassigned imagery is held against conventional attachments to history, while pictorial realism challenges the psychological reliance on the photograph as truth. “A picture might be decoded by distinguishing rifts (contradictions, discrepancies, implausibilities) from resonance (plausible elements, structural similarities, shared characteristics, verifications). In fact the notion of rift and resonance is fundamental to the picture-constructing process as well.”
Mark Tansey in M. Taylor, The Picture in Question: Mark Tansey and the Ends of Representation, Chicago, 1999, pp. 55- 56
Tansey’s monochromatic works utilize the emotional impact of color to reference both political and emotional currents, and eliminate a pictorial hierarchy: landscape and figures assume equal importance. In the present lot, rich red articulates the image, and is itself also a subject of the picture. Extending like an arrow from the upper right corner and surrounded by blank white space, the rust-hued wedge features a battle scene that fades into a solid, densely pigmented triangle. Calling to mind the paintings of Kazimir Malevich, a leader of the Avant-garde Suprematist movement, particularly his 1915 painting Red Square, this painting positions the abstraction of the Russian Avant-Garde (originally a military term) against the representational imagery of the soldiers. The figures are reminiscent of Napoleonic soldiers painted during their campaigns into Russia. Tansey’s painting encompasses all of these literal and figurative opposing forces: France vs. Russia, Neoclassical painting of the 19th century and 20th century Avant-Garde movements, figuration and abstraction.
The power of color in Mark Tansey’s work is punctuated by his use of white. A recurring subject of his oeuvre, the color white possesses a special role in the present lot, filtering slowly into the image to pull it forward from the red slash, and inhabiting the space around the image. Clean, blank, and empty, it is uncontained and seems to push beyond the edge of the canvas: a cool atmosphere inhabited by a human battle.
Paintings from the late 1990s portray the world of appearances in flux, and are dynamic in their cinematic effect, capturing landscapes and figures equally and subjecting them to distortions and transformations…. Using a copy machine, he makes collages in which the initial composition can be tested and established—a process where the actions of the hand and the activity of the mind are on equal footing… the transformation into paint further composes and unites the image space. Here Tansey’s use of the monochrome makes it possible to define the representational image as a “conjectural field,” a place where the impossible becomes possible and thoughts, theses and fictions can be examined.
Mönig, “The Picture Looks Back,” Mark Tansey, New York, 2005, p. 7
Geometrically divided into three segments, Redeployment compositionally references a classical vanishing point. The battle scene is focused in the foreground and blurs into red near the fulcrum, creating another dimension within the picture itself. Furthering the distance from reality, Tansey’s iconic work optically invites the viewer to accept the fiction, psychologically connecting actual, referenced history with the artificiality of a painted image. Hence the picture assumes an inherent drama: the work references cinema and time, and reflects the way history occupies unique brackets our mental composition.
Like a gashing wound on the canvas, the battle scene opens into a recognizable 19th century image of war. Photography and History Painting both feed Western understanding of such histories as the Napdenic Wars, and in the present lot Tansey pays homage to the latter tradition. Monumental and dramatized, this dynamic picture reflects the cultural impact of genre painting while questioning the historical accuracy of photography, and positioning the viewer as the judge of reality.
Acquired directly from the artist; Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
Dimensions: 80 x 100 3/4 in. (203.2 x 255.9 cm).
Artist or Maker: MARK TANSEY b. 1949
Copenhagen, Galleri Faurschou, Border, March 3 – April 29, 1995
Literature: Galleri Faurschou, ed., Mark Tansey, Copenhagen, 1995, p. 21 (illustrated)
Oil on canvas.