Zander Blom Plunders Art History in his Fragmented Abstract Paintings

South Africa-based painter Zander Blom creates work that is full of the history of art over the past 50 years, evocative of many of the 20th century’s art movements, but full of its own unique, contemporary vigor. Düsseldorf’s Galerie Hans Mayer presents new work by the South Africa-based painter, musician, and photographer Zander Blom in an that exhibition marks the gallery’s 50th anniversary. 

  • Installation view of “Zander Blom: New Works,” Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf. Courtesy Galerie Hans Mayer and the artist.

    Installation view of “Zander Blom: New Works,” Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf. Courtesy Galerie Hans Mayer and the artist.

“The history of art is in a way a sort of dictionary that can assist one in writing new stories in the present,” says Blom. “The way I see it is that history is only useful if we can plunder it. The social and political aspects of the artists and movements that I reference cannot be nullified, (in fact they add value and depth to my own work) but I am also free to use the parts that interest me and discard the rest.”

Building off of his previous work, which used colorful fragmented compositions, Blom’s new paintings feature similarly patterned grisaille abstractions. Blom creates his artworks by applying oil paint directly to the canvas and allowing it to seep into the fibers, staining and degrading them. He often builds patterned fragments that coalesce into a fractured image of gyrating sections, similar to paintings by Kerstin Brätsch. In Untitled [1.726] and Untitled [1.715] (all works 2015), the painting is made of one central image, a form that is stretched over the canvas’s surface like a flayed hide. The crystal-like strata and swirls are various tints of grayscale mixed with a range of color from brown and blue, to purples and yellows. This follows as a reductive move from his other work, such as Untitled [1.697] and Untitled [1.701], which contain more color in bright, rich swaths.

Those latter paintings also break up the painting plane into small trenches on the bare canvas plane. Similar to abstract paintings by Eske Kath and figurative works by Leidy Churchman, the discrete placement of painted forms highlights the artwork’s materiality and its painted nature. In Untitled [1.710] and Untitled [1.711], painted fragments float on pools of oil, pushed into the center of the compositional frame. Blom reaches for compositional balance in Untitled [1.732] with a network of spidery forms skittering over the canvas and drawing the viewer’s eyes throughout the painting.

Blom’s work borrows from the history of painting, from the broken image of Cubism, the emotive gestures of Abstract Expressionism, and the accumulation of discrete forms seen in post-Impressionism. And out of these, as out of fragments of painted imagery, Blom creates wholly original pictures.



—Stephen Dillon


Zander Blom: New Works” is on view at Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf, Apr. 10 – May 30, 2015.


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