SCOTT KAHN

IN THE STUDIO

 

BC Projects is pleased to present In The Studio: Scott Kahn introducing six works that embody his unique approach to landscape painting. Scott Kahn (b. 1946) is an artist known for his powerful dreamscapes, rich use of colour and wonderful attention to detail. Memory plays an incredibly important role in Kahn’s practice, with most of his works referencing places he has visited or lived. The psychological verve that he approaches his subject matter is incredible. A constant balancing act of light, shadow, detail and confusion, Kahn captures not just locations, but emotions too. With a fluidity of skill and confidence, fine layers of oil are applied on linen that add to the powerful impact of each work.

Kahn’s influences are wide, having worked throughout the 1970s, he entered the world of Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko and Edward Albee. His eclectic mentorships from artists of such high regard contributes to his hallmark poetic and honest style of painting. With art historical influences such as Henri Matisse, Francis Bacon and Otto Dix, to name a few, Kahn’s work is a unique product of a fascinating and rich life. Possessing the precision of line as artists such as René Magritte and the emotional depth of Dora Maar and Salvador Dali, there is a strong undercurrent of the surreal to Kahn’s distinctive style of painting.

 

I love painting landscapes because it allows me the opportunity to express my response to the mysteries of nature.

 
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Scott Kahn received his BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967 and his MFA from Rutgers University in 1970. He has been awarded grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and has taken part in residencies and retreats at the Albee Foundation, Montauk; and the Mosaic Colony, Southampton. Recent exhibitions include The Circus Has Been Cancelled, Harper’s Books, NY (2020); Sit Still: Self-Portrait in the Age of Distraction, Anna Zorina Gallery, NY (2020); BIG PAINTING, curated by Jonathan Travis, Patrick Parrish Gallery, NY (2019); Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, NY (2019); Oh Beautiful, The American Landscape, curated by Dee Shapiro, National Arts Club, NY (2019). The artist had a 25 year association with Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery in New York, where Kahn had seven solo exhibitions. Additionally, his exhibition history includes a 2004 retrospective at Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Kahn is currently based in New Rochelle, New York.

 


 
For Matthew, Spring Moon 40 x 30 2019 co
 

Kahn, who has been translating ambiguous emotional and psychological states into quietly surreal landscapes and interiors for decades, offered insights into how we might endure and even appreciate a lonelier world.

Zoë Lescaze, Artforum, 2020

 
 


 

CUL DE SAC, 2017

 
 

Eerie, yet colourful and mystical, Cul de Sac is a visual feast. Kahn has intelligently composed the work as if we, the viewer, were emerging from the shaded road into an overwhelmingly brightly lit cul-de-sac. Inspired by the road the artist lives on, the tangerine orange light emitted from the streetlamp takes over most of the canvas. Highlighting the feathery edges of the surrounding trees, the light itself seems somewhat heavenly. It welcomes the viewer out of the darkness into the light, out of danger into safety. However, in true Kahn form, we are met with confusion and dissatisfaction. We are faced with a void at the end of our journey. 

The work no longer becomes focused around what the light illuminates, but rather what is concealed. The darkness is overpowering, and a fear of the unknown begins to creep in. However, Kahn perfectly juxtaposes this with the beautiful starlit sky that coats the top of the painting. Cul de Sac serves as a visual diary, a record of the artist’s own life, reporting on the places he has frequently visited, or in this case, lived. However, as with most of Kahn’s works, the depth, poetry and honestly showcased allows the viewer to be lost in his mysterious and vast scene, creating a meditative and extraordinary space.

 
Cul de Sac, 2017
 


 

GRISWOLD POINT DECEMBER, 2009

 
 

Depicting the eponymous Griswold Point, otherwise known the mouth of the Connecticut River in New England, USA, Kahn captures a beautiful moment of physical and emotional reflection. The sun is depicted high in the cloud-dappled sky, and it casts a beautifully warm glow onto the river and the surrounding delta. Tones of blue, orange and grey mix together to produce a landscape so perfectly calm, it appears dreamlike.  
The vastness of the scene is emphasised as the horizon drifts into apparent nothingness, leaving us alone with our thoughts and reflections. The surface of the work is rich with nuance of depth and subtle colour, in part due to Kahn’s application of oil on linen, which is expertly done by a slow and careful layering process. The eerie calm in the painting perhaps references the artist’s comfort and familiarity of the location, passing that onto the viewer and encouraging a moment of contemplation and appreciation of the vastness of nature and the world around us.

 
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FOR MATTHEW, SPRING MOON, 2019

 
 

Bathed in a variety of Blues, For Matthew, Spring Moon is unique in its homage to artist and friend, Matthew Wong. This work honours Kahn and fellow artist Matthew Wong’s friendship. Awash with blue, the painting is reminiscent of Wong’s last exhibition at Karma, which was titled ‘Blue’. 

The colour blue brings with it a myriad of references. Its rich mineral properties mean it was once more powerful than gold and has long been prized by artists for its capacity to evoke powerful emotional responses – to serenity to spirituality to melancholy. Kahn certainly plays with this in his wonderful late evening scape. The focus of the work appears to be somewhat split between the beautiful blue building punctured by irregular windows which emit a warm glow, and the huge red/orange moon that hovers directly above in the star lit sky. 

As with many of Kahn’s works, architecture and nature combine seamlessly, with trees either side of the canvas as well as the central staircase drawing the viewers eye to the sky, encouraging contemplation. It is clear that blue has been used as a vehicle for expression at a moment of profound emotional experience for Kahn. 

 
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SUNRISE, 2011

 
 

A magnificent display of Kahn’s ability to play with light, texture and colour, Sunrise depicts a glimpse of a well-manicured garden at the turn of autumn. The ground, covered in leaves, turns from green to a rich red. Confusingly, there are many shadows cast on the ground, with the base of each revealing nothing more than empty space. The few trees that are there contradict each other further – whilst some are completely baren of leaves, others appear almost verdant.   

Surrounding this strange garden, a field of tall grass, or perhaps crops, fills the horizon line. As with most of Kahn’s works, he has been playful in his depiction of clouds. Filled with dark grey spots, two clouds seem to float out of the ground, like smoke. With so many confusing and creative elements, mystery and the surreal are the core elements necessary to begin to understand the wonderful world Kahn creates. His landscape draws the viewer in, only to confuse and displace. The viewer is left dumbfounded and awestruck, laying bare the mysteries Kahn hides in the work.

 
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SCRUB, 1988

 
 

Kahn’s work is an amalgamation of art history resulting in a distinctive technique that is wholly won. With the clarity of technique of artists such as Dali and Magritte, Kahn employs a surrealistic tinge to his style of painting. 

This is certainly true of Scrub which depicts an almost O’Keeffe-esque landscape of dried and brittle plants in the foreground with verdant greenery behind, which is in turn punctuated by long, sharp and barren-looking trees. Above this, the sky waits patiently, with Magritte style clouds regularly floating across the pale blue background. 

Kahn unites nature and emotion in an incredibly intelligent manner, immersing the viewer in his work and  inviting them to adventure through the hidden spaces and confusing juxtapositions to find meaning. Scrub is a snapshot of a location, a time, and a space that Kahn once visited and has now manipulated and translated onto canvas. 

 
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AZALEAS, 2020

 
 

Best known for his ability to draw emotional responses from calm surreal landscapes, Scott Kahn’s Azaleas is the perfect embodiment of these themes.

Occupying the centre of the canvas are the eponymous Azaleas; pink, white, red, green - colour combinations subtly mimicked on the grass directly beneath the flowers. The flowers and grass appear to be wrapping a small mound or hill, allowing the viewer a vantage point from which to study the landscape.

Balancing the composition directly above the flowers are a series of perfectly fluffed storm clouds, placed amongst a two-toned blue sky.  They cast eerie and mottled shadows onto the grass below, which, along with glowing orb that hangs between the clouds, builds an even stronger sense of ambiguity. Unsure as to whether the celestial circle is casting moonshine or sunshine, we appear to be placed in a world of constant flux, unaware of time.

The juxtaposition between the vibrant flowers and moody clouds, celestial moon and dark shadows, create a familiar sense of uncertainty that often appears in Kahn’s works. It is a perfectly balanced synthesis of unsettling dread and springtime merriment. Kahn’s surreal world once again captures imaginations and fears, creating a world that we cannot look away from.

 
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