Courtesy of the artist.
Some paintings require us to investigate their conceptual properties and political content, and others still their sheer, emotional power. Erwin Wuk asks us to consider the latter. Erwin Wuk describes his artwork as, “a service to the supernatural presence and as an offering of insight, healing and joy to other human beings.” This theme of the supernatural is apparent in Wuk’s work, as the colors of his piece seamlessly melt into each other, creating vivid movement and energy. Wuk’s paintings are exciting, abstract, and give off literally, an out of this world cosmic effect. Wuk’s work is typically created with acrylic on cardboard, giving the work a palpable texture, evoking an atmospheric quality.
Erin Wuk is seminal artist at the height of his career. He was born in Austria, and went on to graduate from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. Wuk still lives and works in Vienna, however he has exhibited one man and group shows in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the United States.
In his color field painting titled “Divine Light,” Wuk uses bright colors that blend into each other across the canvas. This work resembles the setting sun, with bright purples, yellows, and oranges streaking throughout the evening sky. This work uses repetitive structures, eliminating identifiable imagery to promote abstraction. Through his refulgent use of color, Wuk draws on strong references to nature, as the bright hues travel across the canvas. These colors mix together to form an area of overlapping shades as more colors are introduced. There is vibrant energy in these overlapped areas, where the brightness meets to create spaces of darkness. Much as the day’s sky takes its turn into the night. Wuk states that he painted this work last summer. “It shows in a very intensive way my adoration of light. This is a light of being and awareness. This light is completely convinced of itself; beyond reason, intellect and doubt.”
Courtesy of the artist.
Wuk’s work places him as a direct descendant of this Color Field painting, as he innovates its techniques for the 21st century. Color Field painting came into prominence in the 1960s with artists like Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Helen Frankenthaler creating some of the most moving images of the time. This style of painting has its roots in the 19th century philosophy of the sublime. Edmund Burke referred to the sublime as a terror of unimaginable proportions. He considered “terror as producing an unnatural tension and certain violent emotions of the nerves; it easily follows, from what we have just said, that whatever is fitted to produce such a tension must be productive of a passion similar to terror, and consequently must be a source of the sublime, though it should have no idea of danger connected with it.” Wuk’s creates work that is has an otherworldly beauty, conjuring the majestic, and unearthly. This is an individual journey; the spectator is entering the world of the sublime.
In Wuk’s work titled “When NO-thing Becomes SOME-thing,” he presents land and sky. The blue sky is intersected by earthy hues of land, creating a spiritual collection of color. These shallow intersections of color organically stretch across the entire canvas, highlighting the contrast of light and dark that forms in nature. This work highlights color field paintings’ tendency to suggest figure and ground are one, and that the field of the picture is infinite. There is no form to stand out against a background – these realms are all connected. As these colors create masses of land and sky, a texture is introduced to add a distinctive quality to the work. The sky is smooth, while the land is rough and tangible, creating a sense of physicality to the work. As the color is strewn across the canvas, the darkest area is also the heaviest, where the most tension collects.
Wuk’s work was recently included in Broadway Gallery’s latest exhibit, a project that pays tribute to the format of a salon hanging and focuses on the significance of exhibiting a variety of works in a pluralistic art world. Wuk’s work stood out to me as transcendent – at first his pieces look light and airy, but also carry a rough texture and sublime weight.