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Roland Flexner

French, born 1944

Untitled [Group of thirty Ink Bubble Drawings], 2001

Ink on paper
6 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches (17.1 x 14 cm) each
Gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2010

Roland Flexner creates intricately detailed works on paper with ink that is delivered via his breath. Gravity and chance play primary roles in creating his unique imagery, which balances on the periphery of psychedelic landscapes and abstraction. These works, which were individually selected and combined into this grouping by Flexner for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, hail from a series called “Bubble Drawings” that Flexner began in 1996. They resulted from the artist blowing a mixture of soapy water and sumi ink through a straw or hollowed stencil brush into bursts on intimately sized pieces of paper.

These works predate Flexner’s most recent series of works, which he created using a traditional Japanese decorative technique called suminagashi. In this technique, a piece of paper is laid directly on top of ink that is floating “on” water or another liquid agent, such as gelatin, resulting in a marbling effect—a process Flexner became proficient in during a residency in Kyoto, Japan in 2004. Flexner takes this age-old process a step further, however, by altering the composition just moments before the ink absorbs—tilting, blowing, or blotting the image with a brush. Flexner turned to this process after realizing that his use of sumi ink and soap did not produce the range of tonalities he desired in the final image.

About both these series of works, Flexner states, “From the bubble to the sumi and liquid graphite drawings, my approach is always similar. I make a bubble drawing or a sumi transfer, and the first ones will be, of course, a total surprise . . . you are not only documenting the flow of ink and the characteristics of the medium, but you are pushing a picture, if that’s the aim. And, my aim is to produce a picture—to make a drawing that has pictorial qualities.”