My Favourite Painting: Marie Soliman

Interior designer Marie Soliman chooses an unforgettable image by Mark Rothko, one of the most distinctive modern artists of the 20th century.

Marie Soliman chooses No 14, 1960 by Mark Rothko

‘Rothko once said that he was interested only in experiencing basic human emotions — ecstasy, tragedy and joy — in the simplest of ways. I happen to believe that less is more, which is perhaps why I always find myself gazing, meditating and reflecting when I look at Rothko’s art.

‘I love the minimalism of this painting. There’s no “movement”, but it somehow feels dynamic. Orange is such a strong colour, strangely not one of my favourites, but used to great effect and elegance alongside the midnight blue.

‘His signature composition, coloured squares filling a large canvas, captures your attention and grounds you. It evokes what he referred to as the “sublime”.’

Marie Soliman is the founder and creative director of Bergman Interiors.

Charlotte Mullins on Rothko and No 14, 1960

There are no words that can adequately describe the sensation of looking at a Mark Rothko painting. It is a transcendental experience that speaks directly to your emotions. It can be meditative, moving and exciting, the soft rectangles of colour that float one above the other coalescing in your eyes to create a pulsating glow that rewards slow looking with a powerful psychological experience.

Rothko, a Russian immigrant, started out as a figurative painter in New York in the 1920s. An awareness of European Surrealism and the writings of Carl Gustav Jung finally gave him the courage to push beyond the figure. In 1947, he wrote: ‘The familiar identity of things has to be pulverised in order to destroy the finite associations with which our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment.’

By the late 1940s, Rothko was using oil paint as if it were watercolour, cajoling it into numinous clouds of latent colour. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which owns this painting, gave him his first solo exhibition in 1946. Gary Garrels, MoMA’s former senior curator of painting, described No 14, 1960 as a glowing orange-red above a twilight blue, both floating over ‘bruised eggplant’ purple. There is an energy to the warm glow, an infinite depth to the blue below it. The colours hover before us, expectant, waiting to interact with the viewer. As Rothko said: ‘A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.’

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