gouache and acrylic on paper
56,9 x 75,9 cm (22 3/8 x 29 7/8 in.)
verso signed and dated
Francis' affinity for Japan and Far Eastern culture and philosophy began to take root in the early 1950s, when he were exposed to artists such as Zao Wou-Ki, Chue The-Chung during his stay in Paris and later, during his first visit to Japan, with the Japanese Gutai artists. Francis was able to formulate new approaches to abstraction for himself through these influences. In particular, the introduction of white surfaces into his work, in correspondence with bright colours, characterize Sam Francis' unique aesthetic. The artist thus breaks with his earlier grid-like all-over compositions and develops a new painterly understanding of space in his paintings. He deals intensively with the principle of negative space, or "ma" as it is described in Japanese, and thus creates a special lightness and airiness in his works, which in turn assigns entirely new qualities to colour. In particular, the so-called "Edge Paintings" formulate this approach in a radical way, in that the colours are only used at the edges of the picture, but lose nothing of their presence, but almost on the contrary, still gain in radiance. At times, the white "space" is broken up by small splashes of colour, as in the present work, giving the overall composition an almost dance-like rhythm. The struggle for colour and space, the filling in and leaving empty of the canvas, was for Francis the fulcrum of his entire artistic output. From the densely painted early canvases to the "Edge Paintings," where Francis formulates the so-called negative space most radically, and on to the later works, where colour successively reclaims the space.