426
426
Mark Tansey
STUDY FOR PIT AND PILE
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 792,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
426
Mark Tansey
STUDY FOR PIT AND PILE
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 792,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
New York

Mark Tansey
B. 1949
STUDY FOR PIT AND PILE
signed, titled and dated 1998 on the reverse
oil on canvas
26 by 54 in. 66 by 137.2 cm.
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Provenance

Curt Marcus Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Mark Tansey unravels modes of perception and representation, perennially testing the eye and eluding narrative clarity in favor of incredulous wonder. By adhering to the conventions of representational painting, Tansey encourages an instantaneous familiarity that he quickly corrupts, thereby making us aware of our own susceptibility to images. Deceptively legible, Tansey’s paintings offer us the promise of veracity in their naturalistic style, yet by their supernormal mélange of fantastical elements we decode the dreamworld of the painter’s mind. Exemplified by the ingenuity of the present work, Tansey is a virtuoso of narrative, culling his themes from a litany of rhetorical sources and filtering them through his distinctly surreal imagination. An extraordinary bibliophile, Tansey draws from various texts—literary, cinematic—and his paintings evoke an insatiable curiosity that is coupled with unsparing intelligence. Study for Pit and Pile maintains a photographic exactitude in its monochromatic resplendence of luscious indigo. As is the case of all of the most sought after works in Tansey's aesthetic arsenal, Study for Pit and Pile is deliberately monochromatic; he varies the value but not the tone of his colors. Like a black and white photograph, Tansey’s monochrome contours evoke the outmoded and archaic, yet spun through the preposterous tone of deep blue. The hue is as otherworldly as the picture itself, a breathtaking image whose reality is belied by the photographic nature in which it is painted.

The compositional drama is formally underscored by the exaggerated chiaroscuro, and tonal gradations of shadowy blue create an overwhelming atmosphere that lends the work its striking immediacy. Light pours into the frame through the opening at the left of the canvas, filling the painting with shadows characteristic of Caravaggio’s pioneering investigation of light. Evocative of the surrealist landscapes of Dalí and de Chirico, who melted the space-time continuum by shattering perspective and confusing light and shadow, Tansey’s Study for Pit and Pile harnesses a visual power that enraptures the eye and stimulates the mind through foreshortening and optical illusionism. Tansey's method of painting is excruciatingly time sensitive. Beginning by applying a heavily gessoed ground to the surface, layer upon layer of paint is then successively added to build up a rich surface from which Tansey carves and swipes away paint with a variety of tools and implements. Working within the six hour time frame before his paint dries and becomes unpliable, Tansey operates under formidable time constraints, akin to the technique of fresco-painting. Through his additive and reductive method, Tansey takes on the role of draughtsman, painter, and sculptor. His images thus emerge from the monochromatic abyss by means of a constant process of wiping and pulling pigment away in order to render the painstaking details that fill the vast expanse.

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
New York