Mark Tansey - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 13, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gifted by the artist to a Private Collection, Virginia

  • Exhibited

    Baruch College, Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Reinventing Landscape, 17 February – 30 March 2012

  • Literature

    Arthur C. Danto, Mark Tansey: Visions and Revisions, Harry S. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY 1992, page 127 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Metaphorical and introspective, the work of American artist Mark Tansey derives motifs from historical painting in addition to a wealth of found imagery to create fictionalized narratives. Being a draughtsman through and through, for the artist to arrive at the final painting is the result of an extensive process. From an archive of source material collected in the artist’s studio, Tansey’s artistic process begins with collages made from manipulating images through a photocopier which serve as an intricate and highly tactile process to the more traditional preparatory drawing. Reworking the collages until the desired composition has been achieved, the versatility of this process is intrinsic to the final outcome of the work.

    The present lot, as an oil on canvas study, is a crucial translation of paper collage to painting. Tansey has described this transition: “it is eventually in the painting that I get the closest to the seemingly seamless circumstance” (A. C. Danto, Mark Tansey: Visions and Revisions, New York, 1992, p. 131). Tansey appropriates Cézanne’s famous motif of Montagne Sainte-Victoire in order to question representation in painting. Described by Tansey as a history painting of the history of art, the prominence of Mont Sainte-Victoire in the background represents both the end and possibly the beginning of something new in art. Tansey has formally expressed this lull through the vast expanse separating the mountain range and the foreground of the painting. The symbolic effect of painting in monochromatic hues “is its production of a ‘seeming’’s a matter of seeing how much force of content the framework can take before its apparent unity breaks down” (Mark Tansey, in Mark Tansey: Visions and Revisions, p 128).

    Vehemently negating any semblance to realist painting, Tansey’s painted picture, rich with texture, questions both how to represent the real world and ultimately, whether representation should even be a goal for art. Arriving at the metaphorical, Tansey asks, “How do you make meaning pictorial? It’s no longer about getting direct equivalence between the material and the idea. It’s not about capturing the real. It’s the transition, what happens between the material and the ideas … I’m working with pictorial rhetoric; how we read different kinds of visual order’’ (in P. Hoban, ‘The Wheel Turns: Painting Paintings About Painting’, New York Times, 27 April 1997). Thus, Tansey’s canvas in shades of blue adheres to a wider post-modern and post-structuralist notion of instability. The false realism provided by photographic source material combined with recognizable motifs, such as Mont Sainte-Victoire sprawling across the horizon, Tansey turns the onus onto the viewer to evaluate and to distinguish truth from fiction.


Study for the Valley of Doubt

oil on canvas
35.6 x 111.8 cm (14 x 44 in)
Signed, titled and dated 'Tansey, 1986-1990, study for valley of doubt' on the reverse.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

14 February 2013