Painters Painting

Painters Painting


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Everything you ever wanted to know about abstract expressionism but were afraid to ask.

Once celebrated and hyped up quite beyond its means, abstract expressionism now gets a bad rap, but that's largely because people don't understand it - and don't have the tools with which to do so. This documentary endeavours to provide such tools. Made in 1973, when there was still something hip and fresh about forms of painting that presented 'subjects without objects', it's earnest and hardworking in its attempts to break down barriers. As a result, it comes across a bit like an old Open University programme, but it's certainly educational.

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Painters Painting is not a film for the casual viewer, who will find it much like watching paint dry. For the art enthusiast, however, it has a great deal to offer. It includes prolonged interviews with several of the most important figures of the period, from artists like Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol to critics like Clement Greenberg, and it goes into considerable detail about the work, particularly as regards technique. Demonstrating that the process of creation is as important as the finished work, it can not only teach you how to develop your own creative work in this direction, it will tell you why it matters. And in addressing expressionism as a vital process in the history and development of artistic ideas - a sort of singularity within the art world - it shows why this shift in thinking remains critically relevant today.

Abstract expressionism may not be the most accessible area of art, but this documentary does a good job of making it more so. There are many beautiful and intriguing paintings on display and fascinating visual depictions of the working process. A must for any student of art or art history.

Reviewed on: 23 May 2009
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An exploration of the techniques and aims behind abstract expressionism.
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Director: Emile de Antonio

Starring: Philip Leider, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Philip Pavia, Frank Stella, Larry Poons, Clement Greenberg

Year: 1973

Runtime: 116 minutes

Country: US


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