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Something pure and open minded, provisional and yet complete and fulfilling. The usage of colour as a source for the disclosure of the artist’s innermost feelings combined with a mature balance within compositional matters. These and many other qualitative aspects can be found in Katherine Bradford’s paintings, a unique example of what it means to be a figurative painter in contemporary times. 

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American painter Katherine Bradford has become strongly influential in the contemporary art world, with her colour-saturated paintings and pristine representations, which have become well known for expressing power through simplicity and unveiling incredible narrative potential. 

Swimmers, boats and flying figures reach outside the canvas’ surface and try to speak to the viewer, creating a dialogue about the complexity of consciousness, loneliness and gender equality, opening a time frame in which the observer is put before the painting in a moment of valid truth. An instant of closeness and intimacy, in which a number of different components find themselves combined, giving birth to a pure sense of beauty.


Katherine Bradford, Yellow Dress, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.


Colours and tones, symbols and iconography, when given sense through a meaningful narration, open up new paths and metaphorical possibilities. Therefore the painter is required to balance a variety of components, and to decide all of the compositional matters, while at the same time paint is asked to let it speak for itself, allowing its inner light to shine in front of the observer and capture his attention, in an instant of genuine exchange. 

Often focusing on a variety of pink and blue tones, Katherine Bradford paints subjects that are depicted onto layered, colour-field backgrounds, showing a mature chromatic understanding, and creating a strong referential link to the master of chroma: Mark Rothko. This particular element allows Bradford’s paintings to be elevated to a higher state of recognition, a place where simplicity, and spontaneous gesture are combined with a profound knowledge of the past and its lessons, creating what looks and feels like a very solid aesthetic. 


Katherine Bradford, Olympiad, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.


Katherine Bradford, Green Suit, Pink Sand, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.


If we take a closer look at Bradford’s painting process, we will find ourselves, in an in-between space within figurativeness and abstraction. A research that is both representational and psychological, given mainly by the approach of the artist towards the matter of drawing and composition. As explained by Robert Berlind: “Bradford has said that unlike traditional figurative painters, she does not begin with a plan, but rather draws on her ongoing vocabulary of forms, discovering each image through the painting process and intuition”. This specific method expresses poetry and charm, gives importance to the unexpected while thriving for the adventure and leaving a vacuum for the observer to fill. Katherine Bradford’s provisional painting process uses ambiguous figurative compositions to communicate with the energy and seriousness of classical abstraction, and as said by art critic David Cohen, Bradford acts like Philip Guston in his “high-abstraction-to-low-realism trajectory”. 

An example of painterly freedom, courage and honesty. A deep and colourful representation of the complexities within the contemporary society, enacted in a scenario where abstraction and figurativism find themselves in dialogue. Katherine Bradford stands free from any category, expressing substantial love in an increasingly empty art world. 


Katherine Bradford, Sommersault, 2018. Acrylic on canvas.


Cover image: Katherine Bradford, All of us, 2018. Diptych, acrylic on canvas

Written by Mario Silva

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