The Effect of Photography on Abstract Painting

John Pfahl, 1993
  Bone Marrow Transplant Unit
  at The Albright Knox Art Gallery

A couple of weeks ago in Buffalo, I was reacquainted with some photographs that had a definite influence and impact on my painting concepts.  At The Albright Knox Art Gallery I came across, once again, some photographic prints that John Pfahl made in 1993.  Pfahl is known for his landscape images – photos made out of the proverbial window – that also reference landscape painting and art from the past.

At the Nina Freudenheim Gallery -in the early 1990’s I came across these photos for the first time and they moved me.  These images were made when the photographer was in the hospital and I imagine that he had the time and circumstance to contemplate his life and there is something poignant about these simple semi-abstract images that he took with his camera through the blinds in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.

Alan Singer,  “About Time”
   oil on linen, 1994


At the time I first saw his images, I didn’t know that I was conciously looking for a way to move my painting forward, but I did relate to the imagery, and I soon found a way to use the slight diagonals in my paintings to great effect.  In John Pfahl’s photos I liked the sense of palpable space just beyond the slats that beckon the viewer – a taste of freedom just beyond reach.

My respect for John Pfahl’s work runs deep, and I think in general photography has had this effect on my painting over the years in a profound way.

Alan Singer,  “About Time Too”
   Pastel on paper,  1994

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