The works featured in The Essence of Abstraction are expert studies in color and form. They confront the eye with carefully constructed compositional elements, challenging the viewer to draw from art history, personal history, and natural intuition to extract sentiment and narrative. This talented ensemble of international artists brings with them years of expertise backed with one-of-a-kind life stories - a mixture that proves invaluable in their crafts.


“Painting is for me the way I’ve chosen to express my interior life,” says the artist Montseé, “with shapes, fantasy and color.” In her acrylic on canvas paintings, she brings those elements into a dynamic relationship, giving that interior life a vivid presence. Montseé uses simple forms and gestures in her images, but the energy and power of her brushstrokes animate each line and curve. A simple vertical shape conjures up the image of a human figure on a street, or an undulating curve becomes a powerful representation of a dance. These paintings have an iconic quality that succinctly represents their subjects but does so in a way that stretches the boundaries of reality.

That sense of taking something seemingly simple and teasing out its complexities extends to her colors. “I usually use white, black and yellow,” she says, and that concise palette lets her turn her attention inward to find a subtle kind of variety. “It is like watching a black-and-white film,” notes Montseé, which hints at the sense of movement and drama that gives her work its power.

Anni Koch-Knudsen

Danish artist Anni Koch-Knudsen conceives of each finished painting as a mark of her own fingerprint, and her work studies the transformative process of physical change. Through a sporadic and constructive use of colors, abstract and figurative bodies blend with their environment and expand over the composition with fervent energy. Thick strokes of color are balanced with dripped veins of lighter hues, reminiscent of oceanic tones, enhancing the appearance of her subjects as reflections on an aqueous surface. In these vibrant, asymmetrical compositions, Koch-Knudsen observes bodies becoming fluid with cityscapes and other interior settings. She states that her art is inspired by the joys and harmonies of her present environment, and expects that the viewer will have a completely individual experience of her work.

Anni Koch-Knudsen left the financial industry in 1992 to pursue a more peaceful existence. Now, her approach to her artwork is informed by a holistic lifestyle. In her free time, the artist practices yoga, gardening, and cooking. Koch-Knudsen has worked for many years as a spiritual healer and clairvoyant, and she incorporates art into her therapeutic sessions.

Stephanie Lawrence

“I begin a piece by thinking about color and composition,” says artist Stephanie Lawrence. Her paintings, executed in materials ranging from acrylics to dry pigment, put these two elements both to effective use. The artist’s sharp eye for color is always in evidence, whether she is working with a narrow range of earth tones or is replicating the patchwork of colors found on a city wall. Her sense of composition makes itself felt in an equally broad variety of ways. In some paintings, simple bands of color structure the image, while in others, layers of contrasting imagery combine urban energy with harmony and balance.

“My work is about the urban landscape,” the artist notes, “the layers of color and texture in city walls, billboards, graffiti and other fragments of the aging environment.” From the way she prepares some canvases - with a plaster, glue and water combination that she says acts as “a kind of fresco” - to the vibrant mix of colors she employs, Lawrence creates images that bring both the essence of city life and the feeling of time passing thoroughly alive.

Brigid McGivern

Inspired by images of human beings in their environment, Brigid McGivern’s abstracts bring both faces and figures to life. She employs a scheme of vivid colors and bold contrasts to create an emotional mood, uniting organic figures with specific textural enhancements. Her images range from simple to dramatic, conveying the human spirit and its journey through life by employing movement and ever-shifting colors. “Capturing a moment in a shape is both a beautiful and a dangerous struggle; a struggle reflective, in some ways, of many experiences common to all of us in our lives,” says McGivern.

McGivern begins each piece by first drawing something organic, forming images based on her photographs to create entirely unique compositions. She draws on a keen eye and a reservoir of life experience to transform seemingly separate and individual components into works that touch the viewer. In this way, the artist succeeds in creating transformative pieces that viewers can relate to, unique works that combine artistic stimulation with the portrayal of the essential beauty and mystery of life.

Gabriele Vallentin

With a strong emphasis on color fields and the emotive aspects of form, German painter Gabriele Vallentin explores both the cultural diversity of the world and also the varied (and often contrasting) elements contained within the individual's psyche. Within each compelling abstract painting, Vallentin is able to achieve a delicate balance between color and form, where there is a strong sense of harmony. Her works inspire a sense of suspense and awe at the complexity of the world we live in.

While travelling across the globe, Vallentin captures the strong sensual impressions she encounters in watercolor studies or photographs, which the artist transforms into powerful abstract paintings in her studio, layering oil colors on canvas. This process gives her the freedom to express the essence of a particular aesthetic experience. As Vallentin explains, “Art and life have always been inextricably mingled, a combination of inside and outside movements, impressions, feelings, reflections.”

Gabriele Vallentin currently lives and works in Freiburg, Germany.

Varda Yoran

Israeli-American artist Varda Yoran creates dynamic, emotive sculptures that explore the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the realms of emotive expression and physical movement. A hallmark of Yoran’s sculpture is her definitive use of shape, whether demarcated by sharp edges, smooth surfaces, gentle curves, or undulating lines. Working in an array of materials, including stone, wood, Plexiglas, wax, and bronze, Yoran stays away from superfluous detail and rather focuses on capturing and elucidating the feeling and power contained within each three-dimensional composition.

Most of Yoran’s work is concerned with exploring the universality of emotions and how this comes to intersect with and be expressed by the fluidity of physical bodies in motion. In addition, her sculpture has been influenced by her diverse cultural background, since she has lived in places as varied as China, Israel, the UK and the U.S. Overall, this art is meant to tell a story and to provide insight into what it is to be human in these modern times. As Yoran explains, “To me, art is a language, non-verbal communication. My voice is sculpture.”