Songwriter-Turned-Visual Artist Bernie Taupin Debuts Emotive Mixed-Media Paintings

Artsy Editorial
Mar 4, 2015 12:59AM

Bernie Taupin has developed a rich multimedia practice in which he uses a blend of acrylic, fabric paint, wax, metals, wood, and glass to achieve richly layered surfaces and abstract forms. Citing abstract expressionism and a modernist aesthetic as key reference points, Taupin’s recent works take shape as a collection in “Somnambulistica,” an exhibition on view at KM Fine Arts in Los Angeles.

Works with restrained color palettes like Set Apart We Drift (2014) enable viewers to focus their attention on the particular combination of materials he uses. And the visual effects are often quite striking: bursts of cerulean pop out from deep, cobalt blue backgrounds, which creates an illusionary sense of space. Whether it’s the wax, glass, or an amalgamation of the two, the surface glistens quite brilliantly under light and evokes a profound sense of multi-dimensionality.

With some pieces, the title and content of the work are closely linked. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Agitate (2014), wherein the word “agitate” appears twice along the canvas in bright blue letters. Each word is set against a tapestry of bold, animated brushstrokes that clearly favor abstraction over figuration. Considering his background as a songwriter (he worked for decades with Elton John), this linguistic and lyrical approach to naming paintings makes a lot of sense. As Taupin explains: “the titles of paintings are sort of like handles—they are just a way of identifying things. With songs, I have a title, and the story comes under the title and that defines that; whereas with paintings, I’ll really give them handles, because I will finish something, and I’ll look at it, and it is really the first thing that comes into my head.”

In two works that seem particularly in tune with each other, yellow and red paints coalesce in patterns of gridded lines. Recalling Luxembourg (2014) and The Old Wireless Face (2014) reveal traces of Taupin’s practice, most poignantly the paint drips that run horizontally and vertically along the frame of the canvas.

Anna Furman

Somnambulistica” is on view at KM Fine Arts, Los Angeles, Jan. 14–Mar. 14, 2015.

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