Julian Schnabel’s monumental Large Rose Painting (Near Van Gogh’s Grave)
is the artist’s prodigal return to the medium that established him in the artworld, belonging to an esteemed series of twenty-one plate paintings inspired by the roses that grow alongside Van Gogh’s grave in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. The present work is rife with texture owing to its rich composition created from broken plates and fragment of wood, which are then painted over with hues of vivid evergreen and luscious quartz pink. Schnabel first came across this unlikely composite source material in 1978 inside Park Güell, Barcelona while studying Gaudí’s spectacular mosaics and searching for a new way to paint. As expressed in Schnabel’s own words, “My interest, unlike Gaudi’s, was not in the patterning or the design of the glazed tiles, it was in the reflective property of white plates to disturb the picture plane. The disparity between reflectiveness of the plates and the paint were in disagreement with each other and the concept of mosaic, because they fractured its homogeneity.” As seen in this painting, Schnabel employs his trademark plates in a new fashion; by submerging the collage-mosaic in paint, the plates becomes merely the undergrowth and resign their identity as they become absorbed in the totality of nature. If Van Gogh’s final painting, Wheatfield with Crows
, functioned as a suicide note, the present work is Schnabel’s elegiac ode to the post-Impressionist master, masterfully communicating a grand, homeric sense of pathos.
“What the surface of a painting can be is an obsession of mine...If you see how the plate paintings function, it’s very three-dimensional, both physically and spatially. I like dealing with physical problems and rudimentary concerns about trying to stick things to a surface.” Julian Schnabel