John Kaufmann: Idea, skill, inspiration
A friend suggested I meet John H. Kaufmann who was preparing for his upcoming art show and followed with the comment: “I think meeting John might pique your interest.”
His comment would prove to be an understatement in the neighbourhood of saying jazz great Miles Davis was just a trumpet player or Nobel Prize winning playwright George Bernard Shaw had a thespian knack.
Am I being extravagant, even preposterous? Let me explain.
I had no idea meeting John Kaufmann would be so impactful. He is equal measure disarming humility and gracious sincerity; someone who is surprisingly accessible and engages in conversation without façade or pretence.
His personal history is fascinating. As an architect, his career has been acknowledged with all manner of recognitions and awards and as an artist, he is equally accomplished and celebrated.
Extensive art education and exposure to a who’s who of art history – artists such as Arthur Lismer, Herman Heimlich and Louis Schanker – have guided and influenced his development as a painter.
When asked about these exposures, Kaufmann qualifies his answer by replying: “Influences vary depending on the age of the person. In many respects …. working with Ben Shepherdson really moved me.”
In revealing more of his views and philosophies on the dynamic conflict of career versus art; he states rather emphatically he pursued a career to facilitate painting, without the burden of earning an income with his brush.
It is a commonly known axiom: a good artist knows their art form. In this instance, art form is understanding the compelling impulses to create linked to the prerequisite skills to interpret and execute.
This knowledge fuels the ability to express creativity with a resonating ingenuity. Kaufmann possesses an exceptional talent honed by the highest levels of artistic tutelage and experience.
The paintings he produces defy adherence to a particular style or art movement. He says: “The way I paint is a freedom I love. I don’t get bogged down in detail … I like to keep the brush moving.”
If there is an innate quality in each of his paintings, it is this – Kaufmann’s art pulls you into a visual experience which is wholly inspirational.
“It is an emotional connection between what I see out there and what I put on canvas,” he says.
Every painting in this show presents this exchange, where the convergence of idea, artistic skill and inspiration is evidenced by a controlled spontaneity and emotional advocacy.
Waves is his first art show in many years. This wonderful exhibition gives insight to complex emotions where inexplicable impulses and the creativity process serve to capture an idyllic beauty so often taken for granted.
According to Kaufmann, his inspiration lay in a desired hope that we may all want to preserve the beauty of Bermuda’s South Shore.
Waves is not a subtle statement to suggest potential calamities which too often accompany progress and development. Instead, it is an elegant testament to a beauty that someday may be lost.
This show is a balanced fusion of impressionist voicing and expressionism.
The impressionist elements are evidenced by light, kinetic movement and a colour sensibility of evocative emotionalism.
Kaufmann speaks to expressionism with authentic responses to beauty without wilful or forceful distortion and bold stylistic approaches.
He captures energetic burst of sea spray and torrential water movements while maintaining near perfect spatial references and cues.
With this innate quality present in his paintings he manages an impressionist and expressionist balance with adroit proficiency.
Waves is a thematic series as well as a visual appreciation of the first movement of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2.
The pianist’s harmonious musical score with its drama and poignancy is echoed by Kaufmann with pigment and brushstroke.
His artistic renderings seem to echo the same muscular virtuosity Rachmaninoff achieves in his piano composition.
He deftly captures the dynamic lyricism of the back and forth of wind and sea against the shoreline.
Each canvas seems to possess an atmospheric presence to provoke the senses. The romanticism and sentimentality conveyed in the 23 pieces in this show powerfully transcend any notions of one man’s efforts at preservation.
Nor is it simply the imitative representations of familiar Bermuda vistas.
The South Shore and music provide context and orientation. Nature’s agencies become muses rendered on canvas – it is a visual rhapsody to behold.
I find it ironic, in my many conversations with Kaufmann that I could not broach the subject of his legacy.
I truly believe this is a private matter for him. I think the question: “As an artist, how do you want to be remembered?” would be anathema or offensive to him because his art and painting transcend any manifestation of vanity or commercial pursuit.
I believe Kaufmann to be the rare artist who embraces a noble artistic responsibility – to create beauty solely for the betterment of society.
John Kaufmann’s Waves opens Friday and runs until May 30 at the Bermuda Society of Arts