Bruno Kurz Turns Stark Icelandic Landscapes into Vibrant Color Field Paintings

Artsy Editorial
Oct 9, 2014 8:06PM

At Toronto’s Odon Wagner Contemporary, Bruno Kurz’s second solo exhibition presents the artist’s rich, geological oil-and-acrylic paintings on canvas. Kurz’s bright colors and abstract imagery follow in the tradition of Abstract Expressionist color field painters—such as Mark Rothko and Jan Kolata, who also shows at the gallery—and evidence a marked interest in landscape. The paintings in “TRANSFIGURED: The High Bright Night of Bruno Kurz,” were inspired by a recent journey to Iceland, and the rocky, misty terrain of the volcanic island can be detected in many of the works. 

In Autumn Storm 4 (Lava Nord Series) (2014), the artwork’s black, basaltic surface is streaked with milky white paint. Bits of icy blue are interspersed in the horizontal layers. The whole image conjures allusions to Iceland’s terroir, with its lava flows and snowy earth. The blue closely resembles the hue seen in the crystalline waters from rivers fed by glacial melt. Similarly, in Arctic Ocean 1 (Westfjords Series) rivulets of rainy gray are tinted in places with lavender, cobalt violet, and sea foam green, suggesting a vision from the coastline of the water’s surface, or, in its stratification, the aquatic depths.

But Kurz’s work is not all frost and stone: Autumn Storm 5 (Lava Nord Series) (2014) is warmed by a magma-like passage of orange and red, just below the painting’s center. And several images, such as Coloured Light 5 (Hebrides Series) (2014) and A Touch of Spring (New Sky Series) (2014) make studies of the sky, which can be illuminated for close to 24 hours at a time in the far north. Kurz’s surfaces are richly worked, with paint developed in rich layers. His textural surfaces, inscribed with scumbles, swipes, scrapes, and miasmas of color, capture the rich and varied lands through which he travels in search of beauty.

—Stephen Dillon

TRANSFIGURED: The High Bright Night of Bruno Kurz” is on view at Odon Wagner Contemporary October 2nd–25th. 

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Artsy Editorial