Ellsworth Kelly finds a shape in nature or architecture, isolates a detail that has great formal appeal and gives it monumental form in highly sensuous paintings and sculptures. His shapes are not the ones most common in geometry, but are slightly eccentric, so that the swelling shape in Orange curve sags slightly to meet the vertical border just below the halfway point. The sensuousness of Orange curve comes from the delicacy of that touch between shape and edge, from the shape’s resemblance to the female breast, and from the yolk-like orange of the bulge and the creaminess of its surrounds.
Kelly said that ‘the salient feature’ of his painting between 1954 and 1965 ‘was a large curved form that squeezed the ground to the edge of the canvas’. Within these very strict self-imposed limitations he achieved an art that is abstract, ordered, clear, elegant and has great presence. The orange form appears to be half in and half out of the picture and presses against the edge as though trapped. These tendencies, along with the intensity and density of colour, help to make the painting almost alarmingly alive.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008