Mysterious nebulous forms emerge from Helen Frankenthaler’s 1980 soak-stained canvas Shippan Pt., July, II. Swatches of lilac, plumb, aquamarine, lime, flush pink, and charcoal comingle, evoking the transient atmosphere of a specific place and time: her studio at Shippan Point, Stamford, Connecticut in 1980. The opacity of Frankenthaler’s color is guided toward creating a sensuous effect, a composition that recalls the emotion of a place without physically replicating its surroundings.
Even in its abstracted state, Frankenthaler’s Shippan Pt., July, II is concrete. The spatial ambiguities, the interaction between color fields, are carefully directed by Frankenthaler. She achieves this sense of immediacy, finality, through repeated effort. Frankenthaler remarked: “A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once…one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and your heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute” (Helen Frankenthaler, quoted in Barbara Rose, Frankenthaler, New York, 1972, p. 85). Frankenthaler paints in the process of continual discovery, with Shippan Pt., July, II honoring the beauty of a place through the soak-stain method she pioneered in the 1950s. Frankenthaler thinned-down her pigments, soaking streams of color into the raw canvas.
Akin to the prolific British seascape painter J.M.W Turner, Frankenthaler conjures the sublime in her paintings. In Shippan Pt., July, II lively bursts of color synchronize in a muted harmony: the flush pink fuses into the charcoal stain while simultaneously complementing the thin lime wash and drawing out the lilac accents. Shippan Pt., July, II is an immediate image, one that was born out of an instantaneous motion of Frankenthaler’s hand and heart.