Luke Elwes at the Albers Foundation 2015

The Albers Foundation 2015  (An elemental studio) – Letter from Connecticut by Luke Elwes




“I’m standing in a beautiful studio with a huge four-meter square north facing window and a wide deck on the south side overlooking a rolling expanse of Connecticut woodland. One of two simple studio houses designed by a student of Joseph Albers for visiting artists (who in the past have included Ian Davenport, Ian McKeever and Rebecca Salter from the UK) it lies at the end of a forested trail, about half a mile beyond the Albers Foundation, a latter day shrine both to the Bauhaus and to the man who combined a lifetime’s homage to the square with firing up generations of American artists at Black Mountain College and Yale. Today this temple to modernism is a place of Zen-like calm, secluded in a wilderness of trees and water. 

During the space of time that I’ve been here I’ve set out each morning from my solitary hut in the woods in one direction or another to explore the territory and to observe the visible world move day by day from the cool luminosity and dry stillness of late winter to the explosive growth and iridescent colours of early summer.

As the light and temperature has changed so what I’ve been able to achieve by rapidly combining coloured inks, pigment and water on paper has also changed, and when eventually the stark outlines of the trees silhouetted in the crisp morning light gave way to an enveloping world of dense greenery and deepening shadows I took to the water – using a small rowing boat as my floating studio – to capture the constantly shifting patterns and sparkling reflections on the lake’s surface.

Working outside through the lengthening hours of daylight has been a wonderful way to record the passage of time by immersing myself (along with whatever materials come to hand) in this mutable parcel of earth and water, with results that are unpredictable and full of surprise in a way that the austere arrangement of space in Albers’ carefully calibrated squares can never be. Where his world is temperature controlled, held in timeless suspension, the world outside is simultaneously textured with age and the pulsing rhythm of life, a dynamic realm made up of birdsong, animal tracks, glacial rocks and thunderstorms.

There is no weather in the archive: a marked contrast to Jackson Pollock’s studio, which I went to see on Long Island. The place where he infused European abstraction with raw American energy may be close by but it is a world away from the Bauhaus laboratory; his studio floor, spattered with gobs & flecks of paint, resembles the wilderness outside, as if so many wind blown leaves and a sudden downpour had just swept through.

The tension between elemental energy and rhythmic structure, the interplay of vertical lines and floating forms, at once rising & dissolving, material and mercurial, is what I hope emerges from this new body of work, shown here much as it was when first made and put together on the studio walls in Connecticut.”

Luke Elwes was artist in residence at the Albers Foundation during April & May 2015

Historical note (taken from the Foundation website and Anni Albers, lifelong artistic adventurers, were among the leading pioneers of twentieth-century modernism. The couple met in Weimar, Germany in 1922 at the Bauhaus. Josef Albers (1888–1976) was an influential teacher, writer, painter, and color theorist—now best known for the Homages to the Square he painted between 1950 and 1976 and for his innovative 1963 publication Interaction of Color.