the calligraphic impasto of James Hayward

I was recently offered a marvelous painting by James Hayward (American, b. 1943) for one of my clients and I immediately started drooling – mind you, not for the asking price, but for the rich, lathery, scrummy impasto of the works.  Admittedly I was hungry since the delightful creamy medium reminded me of icing on a cupcake! Wonder who has a sweet tooth?

Because I saw merit in the work, I started researching Hayworth and was immediately struck and reminded at how we’re all affected by our environment.  You see, Hayward’s body of work initially consisted of mirror-slick monotone canvases and it wasn’t until his study in Japan in 1982 that his present oeuvrestarted taking shape.  It’s there he developed an interest for the expressionistic and spontaneous technique of calligraphy that he geniously started applying to his single-color canvases to produce what we now identify as his signature style.
What one can appreciate in the examples shown here is the range of energetic markings and vibrant colors the artist uses, sometimes even inventing new ones in the process.
For example, in his Chromachordseries (mustard colored above), the artist worked 4 pure and saturated colors on the surface of his canvas to produce a 5th.  The resulting 5th was more like dog puke and even Hayward admits that this series was somewhat of a failure, as it did not achieve its intention. He say’s “these paintings parallel our reality; excess to the point of collapse”. Yet even these share the “wall power” that the more pure-colored canvases have.
Recently deceased artist Mike Kelley – according to the NYTimes “one of the most influential artists of the last 25 years” – was quoted in 2005 as saying that in his estimation “Hayward is one of the few truly important West Coast painters, yet he is surprisingly little known outside of the area … he has nothing in common with the painters who came before him … and nothing in common with those that came after him … Hayward has always followed his own subtle and unique path.”  I could not agree more with him.
image credits: Modernism Gallery, San Francisco who represents the artist. (top to bottom) – James Hayward,
Abstract Diptych #12, 2010, 15 x 22 in., oil on canvas on wood panels | Absolute 27×21, Manganese Violet, 1989, oil and wax on canvas and wood panel | Asymmetrical Chromachord 10, 2009, 44 x 33 in., oil on canvas on wood panel | Absolute 55×46 Cobalt Green, 1989, oil and wax on wood panel.
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