PH-118

7:00 PM

Clyfford Still, PH-118, 1947
By SAI GONDI

Darkness clashing with the light. Evil splitting and rampaging through the good. Death seeping across such a vibrant setup. What makes PH-118 such an violent, emotional painting while being so subtle and soft? When Mr. Luce assigned me Clyfford Still for my early 1950s artist presentation I thought to myself "here we go, some more abstract nonsense where I have to spend hours searching for some unknown, godforsaken symbolic message." Boy, I have been wrong quite a few times, but this is up there. Mr. Luce has taught me that art, once beyond its creator's hands, becomes open to be reinvented and seen in new ways. Though, at times it is important to value the insight of the artist themselves because their intentions might help bring the work to life or together the way they desire. However, for a painting paralleling this one with such abstract qualities, what matters lies in how we, the audience, interpret and indulge in it.

PH-118 incorporates two major clashing elements. The violent yet gentle nature of the painting and its sharp colors. Influenced after spending some time with Rothko, Still developed this style of abstract painting, using rough, aggressive strokes. However, his finished products will not always be as violent as one would assume. Instead, he somehow manages to bring a softness to them, while they maintain some degree of aggression. There seems to be no exact balance between those two characteristics, given some paintings will be more light and others more angry. Now, what do I see. When I first saw this, I thought birds because of the weird, birdlike shapes. After further analysis, I began to see the white and yellow as some beacon of good, or maybe angles. The black stands for some tyranny or evil jutting through the canvas with elegant rage. It seems as though Still has recreated the flow and smoothness of rising smoke following a blown out candle. The clashing colors and shapes attack in a precise, and glorious manor leaving so much to be seen and felt by the work. Damn, this painting is awesome.


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