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Monthly Archives: January 2009

    On my first visit to the Museum of New New Painting I was both sceptical and intrigued. Sceptical of the name but yet intrigued by the artist’s work.  However my doubt soon vanished as I entered the world of Bruce Piermarini and the New New Painters. This group of abstract artists, to which Bruce belongs, are recognized by their use of glossy acrylics, bold use of colour and built up surfaces. Their style is a fusion of Abstract Expressionism and Colour Field and is readily classified as “modernist” painting. One cannot help but to have a visceral reaction to Piermarini’s work. The intensity of the hue, the exuberant composition and viscous quality of the paint catapult you to a world in which all of the senses are engaged. 

photo courtesy of Joseph Drappell

"Noon" photo courtesy of Joseph Drapell


These large scale paintings include composites of foam accretions atop flat surfaces which add dramatic implied textural components to the work. The painted   undulating forms twist and turn and travel the length and breadth of the canvas bursting with energy and force. This extraordinary texture also plays a vital role as the built up areas of the paintings reach out in a three dimensional strata ensnaring the viewer’s attention.  

 Fantastical myriad rainbow colours merge and swirl and are shaped by a sublime rhythm and motion.  Every square inch of the canvas is saturated with fierce hue and silken glossiness which is akin to melted ribbon candy swirling in a hand painted Venetian glass. Colours range from sherbet tones to the more intense black, burgundy and reds. Large swaths of colour dominate several works where such expanses are an integral part of colour field painting.   

            Joseph Drapell’s exhibition entitled “What Can Colour Do” was the reason for my second visit.  Drapell is also a New New Painter and founder of the museum. This generous spirited man takes self expression and colour to monumental heights both in his approach to painting and in his technique. 

            Since the 1960’s he has been formulating his own acrylics from powdered pigments and has fashioned several home-made implements form which to paint, including long handled spreading devices and striated trowels. 

            Drapell’s non-representational paintings merge broad areas of sweeping colour, inspired by the Colour Field painters, with his unique acrylics and reflective paints. The layered colours are rich in hue which shine and glisten with ever changing results depending on the viewer’s position. Through the clever use of under painting incorporated with several top layers of colour, Drapell infuses vibrancy, depth and a dramatic play of light upon the various grooves, ridges and built up edges that figure prominently in his work. The results are ethereal, spiritual images of landscapes and expanses inspired by his youth in Prague and of his time spent in Georgian Bay where he draws inspiration from many colourful and diagonal elements. Dynamic figure compositions are also represented in both a frontal and contrapposto manner.

These textural elements are produced with the aid of his aforementioned implements where the striations are an identifying touch and add an extra optic element to his work.

Drapell is quite dynamic when painting and achieves his results while working over top of the large drapell-photo1canvasses which are laid flat on his studio floor.  He is not adverse to climb scaffolding in order to view his work in progress and finds this technique invaluable in order to justify his subsequent strokes of paint. It is quite common for him to reference other artist’s in his work such as that of Jules Olitski when leaving a raised ridge of paint on the canvas edge.

            Joseph Drapell believes that “painting should be visual” and equates his expression to that of his own artistic struggle which he symbolizes to that of a snail. He also thinks that there is a global art crisis both in the quality of work produced and displayed today and that there should be more emphasis on “art in which we cannot lie, that expresses us.” He is most uncomfortable with the conventional dogma so present in the art world today and question’s curator’s safe choices. Drapell is an artist who envelops his own vision in art and who strikes across the grain of convention as did similar artists before him such as the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionist Cezanne.

The Museum of New New Painting is a hidden gem that should be uncovered by any serious student of art and the art loving public at large. To get a taste of Drapell’s work one has to venture no further than the second floor east entrance of Hart House to view his 1987 painting “Nuclear Club”