Artist: Ross Bleckner

I am trying to figure out how I incorporate the cathedral interior influence into the structures in my paintings. The mediums I have been using- charcoal and acrylic sketches don’t seem to be helping me get what i want, so I want to look at Bleckner’s work to look at how he uses cathedral structures in his work, and push me to experiment with new mediums out of the sketchbook.

The book Milazzo, R. & Bleckner, Ross, 2008. The paintings of Ross Bleckner, Brussels: Editions Alain Noirhomme.

Chapter 9: Articulating the Void: Unknown Quantities of Light (1987-88), Knight/Night (1987-89), Architecture of the Sky (or Dot or Constellation) Paintings (1988-93), and Other Series

Bleckner’s part, despite the odds, and no matter how irrational, [is to] to articulate the void,


Architecture of the sky series of paintings is the one I’m interested in – even the name is great!

The circles are ‘ever-widening’ and go down from a ‘focal point’ at the top centre of the paintings.

Bleckner was interested in constellations, cells, dome shapes, light waves.

It is as if Bleckner were trying to come up with images of our world or the universe whose patterns could tell us or show us something about who or what we are in a more minute but objective and scienftific way.


His architecture of the sky paintings reference the Abstract Expressionists but also reference architecture.

the larger or more universal [painting] – the abstract image, the signs or symbols, the transcendent dimension – yields another, more architectural or architectonic in nature.


The paintings are about the AIDS epidemic. The dots in the paintings can be seen as a number of things relating to this, including the a feeling of universal-ness.

The domes are ‘mapped’ by the spots of paint, arranged in ‘horizontal tiers or arcs’.

The dome beckons the gaze of a single individual… upward into a private, sheltering realm. The dome embodies awe, desire, and consolidation… Its insistent, ascending rhythm draws the viewer upward with all the force of desire, and… delivers him into the empyrean.


Empyrean meaning the (the highest form of) heaven.
^ I like the idea that the dome shapes embody feelings.

Bleckner completed these paintings using complicating layers of paint and resin that required specific drying times in the process.

the constellations of ‘mere’ dots, in these paintings, on a universal level or plane, articulate an architectural figure or vision, one that has as much to do with the cosmic, the heavenly or the divine, the transcendent per se, as it does with the gruff ‘patina’ of earthly experience.


^ I love this sentence! My work is also about this play between the ground, the earth, and great heights, with intrinsic meaning and grandeur.

P.121 is an image from a page in his sketchbook – his sketches of structures are similar to the shapes I want to make.

Looking up ‘as the emptying itself into something larger than itself.’ I get what Milazzo is saying when he refers to the sensations of looking up at ancient churches, sky scrapers or the sky itself. I think this sensation is easy to experience when looking at man-made buildings, especially modern architecture. But for me the wonder that comes with seeing vast and grand spaces is a sense of being grounded in myself. And this is especially true when looking up at forest canopies, or buildings with more religious or cultural gravity than modern day buildings.

“I still see myself looking out of the same window,” Bleckner says “still wondering about things in the sky and things I’ll never know… I like to paint paintings that are full of awe.


^ I am so painting things that I am in awe of too!!!

Bleckner goes on to explain that his paintings move from being one thing to the next when one is looking at them: ‘They go from being things in the atmosphere to being nothing at all..’. My work plays with that line between the representational and anything the viewer identifies it with. And as a result I think my paintings also shift in what they ‘are’ as one looks at them.
This is interesting because it is in reading about other artists and works and looking at them in relation to my own do I realise what my painting and thinking is and isn’t about.

Bleckner’s work also reminds me of the medieval model of the universe – where the sky was to seen to have an edge to it, which was the barrier between the next layer, like an onion with the earth at the centre. This idea of the sky being infinite, as we see it today, vs the sky being a closed space really changes how space is seen! – Since when there are edges to a space, a space can feel vast and grand is a way that an endless space can not feel.
Lots of interesting points on P.120 that I could refer back to! But too much and perhaps not relevant enough to write all here.

Domes, as models for the cosmos, are one of man’s attempts to recreate and rationalize the external world. Moreover, they refer to the Ptolemaic vision of astronomy, which holds that the earth (and therefore man) is at the centre of the solar system.


^ What I was just talking about above! Also the use of domes is an interesting take on architecture!

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Architecture of the sky III, 1988
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Architecture of the Sky V
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Related image
Related image
Image result for the fifth examined life ross
The Fifth Examined Life, 1989
Oil and wax on canvas, 92 x 72 in.
Image result for ross bleckner watercolour
Ross Bleckner Untitled, oils, 2014 45.7 x 45.7 cm (18 x 18 in)

So many of his works are interesting, I have included a bunch of his works here to refer back to.

Chapter 10: Examined Life (1988-91) and Other Paintings (1989-1993) seems interesting but not as relevant I don’t think to me. Might be worth reading though?

Bleckner also works in watercolours to convey his intentions. These works are less refined by as interesting if not more:

Image result for ross bleckner ink
‘Untitled’, 2002
Watercolour on paper
30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm)

It looks like he’s used bleach here to remove the pigment? Or perhaps just skilful watercolour use!

‘Untitled’, 1988
Acrylic and Watercolour on paper
16 x inches 12 inches (40.6 x inches 30.5 cm)

These watercolour works seem to support his oil paintings. I can see ideas in the watercolours that have been defined and strengthened in the oil paintings. The lack of control one can have working with watercolour or ink is good for exploratory work because you have to lose some control over the work. Leading to happy accidents and interesting things to unfold.

Implications for my work

I am going to return to the ink YEY!
It seems a bit symbolic or nicely cyclical to be returning to working in ink. AH.
I want to play around with shapes and dimensions to figure out how I can use the cathedral architecture in my paintings.
It seems appropriate to get out of the sketchbook and work in the medium ink to push myself to act on new things in a refreshing medium.
Ink seems the right medium because of how versatile it is, and because I can play with how much I control the ink – maybe bring bleach back into the process?
Anyway, I am not bothered about colour here so monochrome ink will be good, plus Bleckner’s work has an inky quality. I am going to play with the shapes he used in his paintings and see what happens.

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