Calder on Paper: 1939-1959 at Omer Tiroche Gallery

Until mid December, the Omer Tiroche Gallery is home to Calder on Paper: 1939-1959, one half of an exquisite exhibition displaying the magnificent works of American artist Alexander Calder. The other half, Calder on Paper: 1960-1976, is currently on display at Salon 003, in The Saatchi Gallery until early January (Read about it here). The Omer Tiroche gallery provides a beautiful space to present Calder’s work. Its crisp, white walls are the perfect backdrop for the colourful paintings that emerged from Calder’s bold and beautiful mind.

Alexander Calder was an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile, a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents. Calder came from an artistic family. His mother was a professional portrait artist, while his father and grandfather were also sculptors. However, unlike his father and grandfather who sculpted in the traditional sense, Calder aimed to achieve (and succeeded in doing so) a new way or sculpting and expressing himself through his love of art in unconventional ways. He dreamed of expressing his thoughts and views of the world as accurately as he could, pushing every boundary, and became one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated artists.

Calder’s artwork always contained a sense of fun and playfulness, which continues to invite viewers to enjoy in this exhibition. His work is also full of deeper meanings beneath the colourful surfaces of his paintings. They are bright and playful pieces of mystery and confusion, much like Calder himself, whose birthdate even still remains a source of much confusion.  According to Calder’s mother, he was born on August 22nd, yet his birth certificate stated July 22nd! Whoever made the mistake is still unclear but his family insisted it was the city officials.

Although widely celebrated for his mobiles, Calder started out as a painter. His skill with a paintbrush and innate knowledge of how to perfectly work colours with and against each other assisted him with the creation of his mobiles.

On display are a series of ‘gouaches’ that began as inspiration and designs for Calder’s mobiles. Calder began developing and perfecting this technique while living in Paris in the 1930s and continued to do so until he died. He preferred to use gouache paints over oil paint and watercolours, as they dried quicker and gave a brighter, bolder presence of colour. The works featured at the Omer Tiroche gallery are fine examples of Calder’s experimentation and discovery with this medium.

In this exhibition, viewers are able to bare witness to the earlier period of Calder’s creative journey and lifetime of artistic achievements, displayed in his designs and gouaches. While Calder’s paintings from 1939-1959 still have the same air about them as his paintings from 1960-1976, sharing similar patterns and colourwork, the paintings still have a different mood and distinctive style that sets them apart. Viewers can see that Calder’s earlier work was less bold - although still daring - as he was discovering himself and his artistic personality. The paintings featured here contain less variety of colours in each piece, and less organic shapes and objects. They do, however, appear to contain a deeper, more personal meaning. This level of intimacy is most exuberantly displayed in, ‘Sans titre “to mark our first 41 years of struggle...’(1939) which contains a painted written message scrawled alongside the black swirls of the painting.

The message reads, ‘To my esteemed friend + twin Malcolm... to mark our first 41 years of struggle... this side up, please...Sandy...circa aug 22-4/39’

As the years progress, viewers will notice the later pieces, painted in the late 1950s, started to include more colours in each painting, alongside more familiar designs and patterns, including those of household objects and the solar system. ‘Untitled (Colourful)’(1953) shows what is possibly a twisting forest surrounded by orbs representing the solar system, all portrayed in a beautiful wash of colours.

Many years have passed since the creation of these paintings and the physical existence of Alexander Calder. However, Calder was such an inspiration and a revolutionary artist that his masterpieces continue to be admired, regardless of time. Calder’s work featured at both Omer Tiroche and The Saatchi Gallery are stunning displays of what Calder expressed from his wonderful mind, offering us the chance to experience the artist’s pure and colourful celebration of the natural phenomena hat surround us.

Calder on Paper: 1939-1959 is on at Omer Tiroche Gallery until 15th December 2017.  More information may be found here.