Form and abstraction, beautifully
In 2009, the Dillon Gallery on West 25th Street in New York City held a show featuring the work of two artists. One, Georges Rouault (1871-1958) produced expressionistic paintings of vibrant beauty and stark forms, with strong black lines making some of the canvases assume the appearance of stained glass windows. The other, Makoto Fujimura (b. 1960), produces delicate paintings on paper using ancient Japanese techniques, with colorful washes from hand ground pigments, laying thin sheets of gold and silver foil on the surface to add yet another layer of depth. “Rouault depicts a world on the verge of dissolving into pure form,” New York art historian James Romaine notes. “Fujimura builds and stretches his materials and abstract forms until they give birth to images in the viewer’s mind. Yet in both artists’ work, we see the world enriched by a creative imagination rooted in faith.”
Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies, published by Square Halo Books, records something of that exhibition and allows those of us who could not attend at least a hint of what we missed. It is a luscious book, full of color reproductions of both artists’ work. Though brief, it contains two essays on the art, the exhibit, and the artists, one by Thomas Hibbs (dean of the honors college and distinguished professor of philosophy at Baylor University) and a shorter one by Fujimura. Neither essay is pedantic but both helped me understand what I was seeing and allowed not just a surface interpretation of the artworks but a glimpse into what motivated and shaped the artist who produced it.
I have found Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies is one of the few books in my library that I return to frequently. Occasionally to reread, but more often, having read the essays, to thumb through the book slowly, allowing the carefully crafted forms and abstraction, the vital colors, and the faith-informed imagination of the artwork soak into my soul.
If you know an artist or someone who loves art, give them a gift of Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies. And get a copy for yourself—it is a like a gem that rewards repeated examination.