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Themes, series and artistic periods

Whilst I like to explore vastly different 'styles' and approaches in my artwork, there are obvious recurring 'themes' which I pursue. Examples of my themes are: water, desert, wilderness and flora.

At the same time I create pieces which tend to form 'Series' with individual works representing different themes.

Examples of these series are: spectrum shifts, patterns and minimalist colour-fields.

Happiness and painting - my approach to art practice

Sidestepping the philosophical questions of what is happiness, and how to pursue it, as an artist I can only deal confidently with the issues of what makes me happy.

Messing about with paint and probing all aspects of the creative process makes me happy.  Exploring this planet’s stunning landscapes and discovering the wonders of nature makes me very happy.

With my background as an architect, I tend to ‘cut to the chase’ and try to capture the essential elements of a visual experience, hence my leaning towards minimalism and abstraction.

I consider abstraction as the means of selecting and isolating the essential elements of a location, a landscape and such, for example the dominant colours, the mood and the feel of the place.

Eliminating all unnecessary details and extracting the most significant features of a scene is the main task for me.

To illustrate: I bypass depicting the vineyard, the sun above, the vines, the bunches of grapes and the wine, I am searching instead for the final product, the concentrated spirit, the potent cognac, which is the ultimate manifestation of all the essential elements that contributed to the final product. My use of invigorating colour and complex patterns reflects my desire to create works that inspire optimism, reflect the vitality of the wilderness and provide a meaningful experience for the viewer.  I like bright cheerful colours that illustrate the thrill of being alive. While selling contemporary paintings has its benefits for any artist, for me the real achievement (and the source of happiness) comes from the satisfaction people experience when my paintings speak to them.


Uniformity or variety?

I have a very broad range of styles and sometimes I wonder if this is a wise approach.  Should I restrict myself to a safe comfort zone and only produce countless variations of my commercially successful pieces?

I only hypothesize about this, because many artists just stick to a certain style and "look" and do endless variations in the same vein.  A good example is the Australian painter John Coburn; all his paintings seem to be based on a certain formula: an evenly coloured background and a number of differently coloured and carefully drawn shapes, usually ovals, circles, diamonds, and assorted curvaceous outlines  arranged in a carefully composed way.

Beautiful colours, subtle refinements.  No drama and no surprises, just a lovely composition, in reliable good taste, and the execution is immaculate.  Galleries love this reliable consistency.  

 Many artists on the other hand go on a merry-go-round of experimentation and exploration.  They always search for new approaches, there is no restriction on their imagination.  They tend to get carried away with new processes, they stumble on something new which has never been done before. Pablo Picasso is a good example, in all his life he used many different media, and changed "styles" regularly and with verve.  Caught up with the passion of the pursuit.

So what are the alternatives for an artist, follow the path of Coburn or Picasso?  Should he play safe and do the "reliable and boring consistent", or just get carried away with the passion of the chase?

For me, the safe way does not appeal. I much prefer the path of discovery, the chasing of a dream and the discovery of  unexpected surprises in the process!

happy cellscape contemporary original acrylic blue abstract painting

Abstract art and music - what is the common language?

I would like to discuss the different ways people respond to abstract art and music.  Whilst these two different art forms have many significant similarities, many people tend to approach them entirely differently.  Why is the attitude so different when they encounter examples in each of these mediums?  Consider the possibilities.

Abstract art -- ‘what does it mean?’ I hear

It's not surprising that many people, who are not conversant with the language of contemporary art, become very puzzled when looking at an abstract artwork.  Their confusion is usually triggered by being confronted with an unfamiliar visual experience.  Normally when people come across a painting or sculpture, they are looking for visual references they are familiar with.  Such references may include landscape features, the human body or ordinary objects they see every day.

So when looking at an abstract artwork and their familiar visual references do not come into play, they tend to become confused and bewildered.  They are inclined to ask 'what does this mean?' rather than come to the simple conclusion of 'I like it' or 'I do not like it'.

Why is abstract art and music perceived differently?

It is interesting to note that the very same people would not be confused the same way if they just heard a new musical piece.  Instead of asking 'what does this mean?' they would certainly come to the simple conclusion 'I like it' or 'I do not like it'.

When hearing a new musical piece, people are not making comparisons with the natural sounds they hear in their daily lives, such as sounds heard in a forest, on the beach, in urban settings and so on.  They respond to the mood, the melody and the rhythm of the music instinctively. They either like or dislike the musical piece without resorting to reasoning and analysis or looking for a meaning.  Their reaction is instinctive, intuitive and quite often emotional.  May even play on their heartstrings.
This indicates to me that many people appraise abstract art and music entirely differently.

Music is intuitively assessed and accepted or rejected, as the case may be.  In contrast, visual art is scrutinised with analytical reasoning, and the viewers are usually looking for a logical explanation.  For some inexplicable reason the intuitive approach gets switched off by most people when it comes to contemporary art, especially the non-representational kind.


Music is intuitively assessed and accepted or rejected, as the case may be, however, visual art is scrutinised with analytical reasoning, looking for a logical explanation.  For some inexplicable reason the intuitive approach gets switched off by many viewers when it comes to appreciating contemporary art, especially the non-representational kind.

The parallels between abstract art and music

In this discussion I deliberately have chosen music for comparison.  Even though abstract art and music are treated quite differently, I believe there are very strong parallels between these art forms.  Creators of abstract art and composers of music apply the same principles in their compositions and they rely on the same basic elements.  Their common language is colour, tone, texture, mood, rhythm, harmony, contrast, balance, tension, counterpoint, integrity and so on.

The dynamics of the creative process in both these art forms are directly comparable and the parallels are strikingly similar.  Yet evaluation and 'understanding' of music and abstract art is altogether different.

Why is it so?

I do not know the reason for this curious divergence and the general lack of understanding of abstract art.  As a contemporary artist, I wonder why this is the case and only have a few guesses.
I suspect the main reason may be the lack of education in this area.  There may be insufficient coverage in schools of any visual arts related subjects.  Another reason may be the lack of exposure to such works of art during the formative years in a young person’s life.  Are any psychological factors involved?  Is the undue emphasis on sports the culprit?  Is the decline in general knowledge across the board the explanation?  Please let me know if you know the answer.
In the meanwhile, lets enjoy the enjoyable, including the best of abstract art, without analysing too much, without explaining too much or even thinking too much of the extremely high selling prices some abstract artworks reach in the current art market.

Artist's Palette magazine article by Natasha Percy Reproduced from issue No.29

Wilderness by Design

Ernie Gerzabek's training in architecture and design adds an edge to his paintings,
which reflect the Australian landscape in a unique way. 
His use of invigorating colour and patterns reflects his desire to create
works that inspire optimism, reflect the vitality of the wilderness and
provide a meaningful experience for the viewer.

Ernie left his homeland of Hungary at the age of 18 as a refugee and spent two years in Austria with his family before migrating to Sydney Australia.  As a child, growing up in a landlocked country under the oppressive communist regime, he had resigned himself to the probability that he would never see the sea. 

In a wonderful twist of irony, today he has made his home on Sydney’s northern beaches, regularly travels to Europe and North America and finds much of his inspiration from the stunning landscapes he encounters on three different continents.

Ernie Gerzabek’s background as an architect adds an edge to his paintings, which reflect the love of nature in a unique way.  His use of invigorating colour and patterns reflects his desire to create works that inspire optimism, reflect the vitality of the wilderness and provide a meaningful experience for the viewer.  “For me, the colours are stimulating” he explains.  “I like bright optimistic colours that can translate into the thrill of being alive.”  Ernie sees colour as both an emotional and visual tool and he aims to choose those that best express his feelings towards his subject matter.

Dots and lines form a significant part of Ernie’s paintings and he maintains they are the basic elements of visual expression as a whole.  “Dots allow different colours to be put side by side and then those colours blend together in your eye (or more accurately in your mind), producing a new colour.”

When considering which artists inspire him, Ernie says he most admires Van Gogh’s intensity and use of colour to stir up emotions, Paul Klee’s sensitive insight into our inner beings, Kandinsky’s exuberance and sense of composition and Picasso’s brave inventiveness. 


As for Australian artists, he loves John Olsen’s playful and imaginative expression, Sydney Nolan’s “cutting to the chase”, Fred Williams’ ability to abstract the essential elements of a landscape, and last but not least, Aboriginal Emily Kngwarreye’s instinctive mastery of colour, structure and connection to Country.

Ernie loves the purity and intensity of abstract art.  “I look at abstraction as the process of reducing and distilling the essential elements from a landscape, for example the colours, rhythm, mood and feel of the place,” he says.  Getting rid of unnecessary detail and extracting the most important features of a scene what really matters, according to Ernie.  “I try to go beyond the hillside, sunshine, vines, grapes and wine to find the final product, the concentrated spirit, the brandy” he illustrates.

Ernie believes this ‘filtering’ process is well-suited to the subject matter of the natural world.  “Wilderness by its nature is untamed, overwhelming, and awe-inspiring – unless simplified, it is beyond our comprehension to take it all in,” he says.  According to Ernie, getting down to the basics is not as easy as it might seem, and not many do it well.  “Good abstraction leapfrogs the trivial and bypasses the intermediary to convey information directly,” he states.  “Bad abstraction is contrived and forced and can very easily become clichéd.”

While selling paintings naturally has its benefits, Ernie says the real achievement comes when his viewers not only find his work attractive, but also find it speaks to them.  “My main aim in being an artist is to produce art that is meaningful to people,” he says.

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Top artists of the 20th century to now - as voted by readers of The Times newspaper

 Pablo Picasso

 Paul Cezanne

 Gustav Klimt

 Claude Monet

 Marcel Duchamp

 Henri Matisse

 Jackson Pollock

 Andy Warhol

 Willem De Kooning

 Piet Mondrian

 Paul Gauguin

 Francis Bacon

 Robert Rauschenberg

 Georges Braque

 Wassily Kandinsky

 Constantin Brancusi

 Kasimir Malevich

 Jasper Johns

 Frida Kahlo

 Martin Kippenberger

 Paul Klee

 Egon Schiele

 Donald Judd

 Bruce Nauman

 Claes Oldenburg

 Alberto Giacometti

 Salvador Dalí

 Auguste Rodin

 Mark Rothko

 Edward Hopper

 Lucian Freud

 Richard Serra

 Rene Magritte

 David Hockney

 Philip Guston

 Henri Cartier-Bresson

 Pierre Bonnard

 Jean-Michel Basquiat

 Max Ernst

 Diane Arbus

 Georgia O'Keeffe

 Cy Twombly

 Max Beckmann

 Barnett Newman

 Giorgio De Chirico

 Roy Lichtenstein

 Edvard Munch

 Pierre Auguste Renoir

 Man Ray

 Richard Hamilton

Henry Moore

 Cindy Sherman

 Jeff Koons

 Tracey Emin

 Damien Hirst

 Yves Klein

 Henri Rousseau

 Chaim Soutine

 Arshile Gorky

 Amedeo Modigliani

 Umberto Boccioni

 Jean Dubuffet

 Eva Hesse

 Edouard Vuillard

 Carl Andre

 Juan Gris

 Lucio Fontana

 Franz Kline

 David Smith

 Joseph Beuys

 Alexander Calder

 Louise Bourgeois

 Marc Chagall

 Gerhard Richter


 Joan Miro

 Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

 Frank Stella

 Georg Baselitz

 Francis Picabia

 Jenny Saville

 Dan Flavin

 Alfred Stieglitz

 Anselm Kiefer

 Matthew Barney

 George Grosz

 Bernd And Hilla Becher

 Sigmar Polke

 Brice Marden

 Maurizio Cattelan

 Sol LeWitt

 Chuck Close

 Edward Weston

 Joseph Cornell

 Karel Appel

 Bridget Riley

 Alexander Archipenko

 Anthony Caro

 Clyfford Still

 Luc Tuymans


The Mosman Daily published the article below on 12 May 2011.

I donated my Midnight blues painting to Asylum Seekers Centre, to be auctioned on the Quiz Night.

newspaper article about Ernie Gerzabek donating painting to charity

© Ernie Gerzabek 1999-2017

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Abstract Landscape Paintings Gallery