Y-1401 by James Lutzko

Y-1401, oil on canvas, 24×24 in. | 61×61 cm.

JAMES LUTZKO: Fields of Thought

By Dorota Kozinska

Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colour, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.
– Wassily Kandinsky

Unlike figurative art, which has gone through a period of questioning as to its validity in contemporary visual expression, abstraction kept a steady, albeit fluctuating presence. Somewhat on the sidelines at the start of the 21st century, abstract art is making a spectacular resurgence, with a very different plastic message. As most contemporary art remains concerned with immediacy and expression, young abstract artists seem to delve into deeper cultural undercurrents, as well as profoundly personal reflection. As the world order changes, so does art, consciously but more often not, reflecting the global unrest.

For some, like Calgary based painter James Lutzko, art becomes a vehicle for not only self-expression, but also a means of finding one’s place in the new reality, both physical and emotional. Abstraction holds within it endless possibilities, that can be both challenging and inspiring. Lutzko’s canvases aim at breaking the barrier of the medium, and imagination, seeking his muse deep inside his psyche.

If to be an abstract painter is to have the soul of a poet, in the words of the great Kandinsky, James Lutzko fits the bill. His works, unlike those of such giants of abstract painting as Mondrian or Pollock, do not demand instant recognition, not even an instant reaction; what they ask for is quiet reflection, a return to an inner sanctum of the heart… Like the vast fields of subdued tonality in Canadian painter Romany Eveleigh’s canvases, or fragments of colour planes excised into small format by Françoise Sullivan, Lutzko’s works are portals into another realm. His palette is varied, undulating, the brushstroke dictating the eye’s journey across the canvas, leading it from darkness to light and back. In the process the viewer discovers layers upon translucent layers, almost like fleeting thoughts, leaving behind delicate traces.

Landscape serves as muse in Lutzko’s creative process, but it is the landscape of the imaginary, transformed through meditation into a pictorial expression of a very personal kind. Self-taught, the artist approaches his work with pure instinct: intuition, rather than training, guiding his hand. The symphony of tones that imbues his work speaks of an innate talent and an unspoiled, unencumbered love of painting.

Colour provides the titles in his canvases; Blue, Yellow, Red marking a path of pictorial discovery shared by the artist and the viewer as each painting encapsulates a different emotion, and like Rothko’s vibrating colour planes, provokes myriad sensations. “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real,” observed English painter Lucian Freud. The more one looks at Lutzko’s abstract fields of colour, the more images they conjure. There are distant landscapes beneath the mist of paint, an echo of a presence hidden in the brushstrokes. Yellow is like diving into a warm, murky lake, where light filters through the water, shimmering, bubbling back to the surface. There is anguish in pieces titled Black, as if something was trying to free itself from the abyss, its light, like breath, slowly emerging in the centre of the canvas. Purple resembles parched earth, a lunar landscape, or a fragment of an ancient, weathered mural, with golden cracks like a nocturnal spider’s web glowing in the dark, holding the composition in place.

With artists like James Lutzko at the helm, abstract art is heading into  unchartered and fascinating waters.

James has just joined Contemporanea Fine Art, an art sales and services company owned and directed by Marco Rosada, an intentionally renowned Italian art dealer and adviser, that recently moved its headquarters to Calgary.

Dorota Kozinska is a Montreal-based international writer and art critic.


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