• Chris Simmons

Paul Klee, jazz rhythms, wobbly grids, and letters

When I made the drawing for this work ("One Two Three"), mid-20th artist and art teacher Paul Klee was on my mind. There's a powerful simplicity in his art, which feels both profound and playful.

Klee went back to the elements of dots and lines, and was famous for saying "a line is a dot taken for a walk".

Some weeks ago, I took a dot for a walk, which, brought me here: I simply let the line flow from left to right without stopping. That made the enclosing curve.

Reacting to that with a vertical made something suggestive of plants, leaves, water. Hence the "drops".

This design was nothing like my previous pieces, so Klee helped!

Klee's approaches were very diverse, yet there was always a simplicity going on; as if he was trying to return to childish drawing with the perceptions of an adult; or a naturalism.

Words and symbols were always part of his drawings, although they served double-duty as abstract shapes and borders. Often he created a tight grid, yet his use of colour and line never let that appear cold and geometric.

In making "One Two Three", I wanted to use letters in a similar way.

After rapidly pencilling in a rough grid on large paper, I set about loosening it up by merging some rectangles. Here's where the jazz came in: I used the 5/4 rhythm from "Time Out" by Dave Brubeck, merging every 4th and 5th in a row, then repeating this through the columns of the grid. (It saves having to think, and gives me a surprise!).

Now I could insert writing, with the drawing guiding it towards an abstract pattern.

Which words to use? "One Two Three" came inevitably to mind. So I drew these letters, filling each rectangle, regardless of shape, and giving them some dynamic angles.

The result feels a bit like writing, but the first reaction is to see the shapes.

It's quite busy, and you can find a lot of intriguing shapes and patterns within it (at least, I do!). And if you clear out the lines, you can see little compositions, such as this one:

I think I see where the next piece is coming from.....


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