Ocean Park

Diebenkorn . Ocean Horizon

Summer is approaching! But in my case, it is not heralded by garden lunches and first chilly water dips per se. A more reliable announcement is made probably by the long pauzes I spent this week returning time and again to the painting by Richard Diebenkorn above. Perhaps it represents some abstract longing for what is soon to come: holidays. Indeed, seizing on the series’ title,Ocean Park (#79), it fills me with the sensation of distance and dullness of holidays. It is a resolutely concrete projection – too concrete perhaps – for the abstract geometric image that it is.

Or not. Because the image seems to be only a further step of abstraction removed from another painting by Diebenkorn’s hand.Ocean Horizon frames a similar view on the ocean, albeit a more figurative scene. There’s a cup of coffee, there are flowers and there are the electricity lines running towards the beach. But the sea is the same, and that is what matters. Both paintings do take an opposite vantage point: from the beach house onto the sea, and from the sea onto the sandy coast. But their view on the ocean is comparable. This is not the wild, unreliable mass, a source of the sublime for so many other artists. Instead, it is flat, geometrically controlled, domesticated, yet enticing. It is the ocean as it is on a day that nothing happens, and nothing has to happen. But it is also the ocean that one sees from a distance, the moment one anticipates when reaching the peaks of the dunes, before descending onto the beach. It is a sensation one tends to forget about in the cycle of seasons, but one that has just now re-surfaced:  the anticipation of the dulness of summer, and a flat, empty sea.