‘Everything is feeling, everything is real. Colour brings me joy’. Sonia Delaunay, 1972
The exhibition Everything Is Real juxtaposes two artists working with abstraction in different ways and at different times, but with many of the same intentions and indeed end results: the retention or enhancement of movement and energy within the picture field and the manipulation and celebration of colour.
For Delaunay the nature of colour – of the contrasts therein – was the defining element of the unique voice that she developed along with her husband Robert in the early 1900s. The forms within her and Robert’s paintings were initially rooted in place, taking architectural forms as the framework on which to transpose, and experiment with, planes of colour. The term that came to be most associated with her painting from this period was Orphism (a word coined as much as anything to distinguish from the rigid adherents of the Cubism movement of the same period) – but tellingly Delaunay preferred the phrase Simultanism – a word derived from writings on colour theory by Michel Eugène Chevreul that much more spoke to the primary importance of the power of colour than the distortion of form.
In the work of Tim Braden the primacy of colour is also clear. His work, like Delaunay’s, abstracts reality but usually begins with literally representational ‘pictures’. From a variety of sources – photographs, still-life compositions, even his own previous works – Braden pulls apart, zooms in and out of, subtly reorders and otherwise dissembles the picture plane until the forms therein best allow colour to ‘take over’. In some works this process can be a subtle reframing wherein the scene and its specific knowable references remain intact, whilst in others the process of abstraction is complete, creating works of pure colour and form. The works in this exhibition are very much the latter – vibrant and pulsing planes of colour that have only their titles (Spanish Garden, 17 Powis Terrace) to tether them to the specific places where they ‘began’.
A central notion to Delaunay, that rings true when here considering both her works and Braden’s, was Rhythm. It is a phrase that well reflects what links the two artists’ practices – a completely intuitive sense of where the discord of reduction and abstraction stops and the perfect harmony of colour and form begins. In the works of both artists on display in Everything Is Real it is clear this sweet spot has been found.