Sea paintings we love: Ocean Park No 129 by Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn (1984) Ocean Park No. 129 oil on canvas

The painting at the top is near the end of the series of 139 'abstract' oil paintings by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993 American) that were eventually named 'Ocean Park'

He started painting these large abstracts when he moved to his new studio environment in Ocean Park, Santa Monica, California, USA in 1966 and continued for the next 20 years. It is his largest body of related work. Supposedly he never deliberately tried to capture the light or forms of the area they just seeped through while he was painting. 

But unconscious or not there is no doubting the sea's horizon line. It is impossible to think it anything else when it borders the subtle flickerings of pale cobalt blue, like in Ocean Park 129, which you just want to immerse yourself in.  
Other blues in the series flicker and shift into turquoise and greens and purples, from light to dark and back again. That rigid horizontal line features in almost all the work.

The Horizon Line from a painters perspective

The horizon line and the division between sky and sea is the dominant architecture of the ocean when you're viewing from the shoreline. For the visual artist it means rectangles. It means layer upon layer. It means the weight of the sea and the clarity and mutability of water. 

Interwoven with this weight is the curvaceous lines of waves which thread through from high to low creating more amorphous shapes and diagonals. But sometimes the waves are so quiet. So still. They're like sheets of glass. Just like in Diebenkorn's work.

All horizontal lines are too monotonous in a composition (unless that is what you're trying to say) so you've got to have some diagonals and verticals for variety. But it's a balance. It has to be true. You can't have too many. And there's that atmosphere feeding into the water and out again.  

Diebenkorn's studio was in Santa Monica, California when he painted Ocean Park No. 129. Do you think it would make a difference?

There's a new exhibition of Richard Diebenkorn's (1922-1993 American) art (over 60 works) that's just started at the the Royal Academy of Art in London until 13th June 2015. 



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