The Seagram Murals – Mark Rothko

The Seagram Murals – Mark Rothko

The Seagram Murals. This is the inaugural post of what I hope will be a fascinating series. A series that could last as long as I do! Nobody better to start it off than Mark Rothko. No better works to discuss then, than the Seagram Murals.

Essentially, it is to share my thoughts with you. I hope this will be an interesting weekly post (or as close to it). The premise is simple. It is for me to write about paintings that I admire and how they affect me. I may use some tasty words from time to time – but I’ll try to keep it easy to read and not too scholastic. However, as an artist, this should give you an insight into some of my thought processes and how I am influenced when I paint.

One of my great heroes is Mark Rothko.

Mark Rothko - Wikipedia

Mark Rothko – creator of the Seagram Murals


The Wikipedia article above contains a lot of interesting background on Rothko. One of my favourite quotes by him is “I’m not here to make pretty pictures… I’m here to make you think”. This is how I feel when I create my stuff.

The Royal Academy in London held an exhibition in 2016 on Abstract Expressionists. I haven’t blogged about that, as I didn’t really start doing that until 2018. But what an exhibition it was. I went twice. Rothko was beautifully represented. I overheard somebody say “I don’t get him at all”. Perfect I thought.

Painting “The Other”

Why perfect? For me, painting “the other” is what Rothko did. What do I mean by “the other”? The other side of the curtain. The thin veil that separates us all from life and death. His works deal with the cosmos, the larger questions in life. They are about the dark side. His paintings are voluminous and at the same time spartan. I think they make us uncomfortable. They deal with doom and tragedy; they are pellucid and ephemeral, they are life itself.

The Seagram Murals

Famously commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram building in New York, then even more famously withdrawn by the artist, they force us into contemplation. They were then donated to the Tate Gallery in the UK, arriving on the very day of his suicide in 1970. 

When I first encountered them, I was transfixed. I couldn’t leave the room. They had a hold on me. At one point I was moved to tears and felt slightly hopeless for myself and humanity. That is the power of truly great art. The power to get inside your head. Whenever I observe large works, I like to imagine what was going through the artist’s mind when creating them. 

If you navigate to the link above you will encounter “Black on Maroon”. This is the one that made my eyes water. What is it? A gateway to another world? Prison bars holding you back in this one? The muted colours are soft and gentle. But the bars are dark and mysterious. See what I mean about getting you to think? I haven’t seen the Rothko Chapel in the USA (yet). I can only imagine the effect they will have on me when I do. They are on my “bouquet list”. 

The colours inside you

Somebody asked me recently about what I am trying to convey with my work. The colours inside me I said. Now that may seem a bit far out and obtuse, even pretentious, but it’s how I paint. I am endeavouring to paint and convey my emotions. I’m not there yet. I have a lot of work to do until I achieve it. I’m not painting to make large sums of money or for fame, or for kudos. Simply as an outlet to express myself. I have done so in many ways in the past, singing in bands etc. But Art is the only thing that really moves me deep down inside. Well, that and Music and… But that’s another story.

If you don’t “get” Rothko, please try to get along to view some of his work if you can. Then please try to bear in mind some of what I have outlined above. Try to get inside the paintings, try to feel them. You might then have a better understanding of yourself. You might then have a better understanding of others, or indeed “the other”.

P.S. Don’t forget Mark’s birthday too – I don’t!

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