Dutch artist Donald Schenkel (1991) shows his newest series of gradient paintings in the solo exhibition ‘Orange Wave’, presenting work completely flooded by orange and mauve pigments.
The way colours and pigments behave has always intrigued Schenkel. This fascination inspired him to arrange colours in compositions of subtle transition that lets each colour gently flow into another. His foundation in the more conceptual ways of artistic creation makes his approach to traditional materials such as oil paints unique in his field. He reveals the behaviour of colours through his extensive exploration of the material qualities of varying pigments and colours mixtures.
Schenkel’s gradients demonstrate how certain colours are highly transparent, where others are highly opaque. By allowing these to flow into each other, lighter colours appear to sink into the depths of darker colours. His previous work with cooler colour schemes ranging from blue to green evoke a sense of calm, arousing a contemplative mood in the viewer. But how could this be achieved with warmer colours, such as orange, red and purple? According to Schenkel, it can be done:
‘…I always used to think that yellow is a bit of a rigid, harsh colour – the colour of, say, a wasp – but it has a certain softness to it, as well. It resembles the warmth of summer days, of the setting sun. Lately, I have been captivated by reflections. To me, the setting sun is most beautiful when reflected in the windows of the soaring height of a skyscraper. I do not necessarily wish to show the moment where day and night meet, but I want to call to mind that moment when you wander through a city – take Hong Kong, for example – and you stop to look at the twilight reflected in the windows surrounding you. Then, as you turn towards to water, you witness the light dancing on the mirror-like water and in the orange-grey sky. Dutch artists used to be famous for their outstanding ability to paint light, because, with the abundance of water in our small country, light is always scattering off the surface of ponds and rivers and back into the sky, to be reflected back once more by the billowing grey clouds above.’
In this regard, Schenkel’s work also deals with our sight, with the way we observe our surroundings. Staring into the distance of a landscape can, in a way, also make one look into the depths of the self. Schenkel’s paintings have yet another layer to them: while they are most certainly abstract works, they do, at the same time, allude to certain sensations and familiarities from real life. His work touches upon that fine line where a visual experience becomes an emotional, almost tangible experience.
Still a recent graduate of the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, Schenkel has already become a firmly established artist within the Netherlands. Represented by Assembled by Root, his work has reached many corners of the world, including group shows in Nanjing (P.R. China) and Los Angeles (USA) and a solo show in Guangzhou (P.R. China).