News / Halifax

Neptune's production of RED takes audience inside the mind of an artist

Paintings are interpreted by the people who view them, but rare is the chance to observe the artist’s process as it unfolds.

John Logan’s play RED attempts to do just that, documenting legendary abstract painter Mark Rothko in 1958 as he creates a series of paintings for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York.

As the project takes shape, it begins to offend Rothko’s sense of integrity, said director Eda Holmes of the play, which opened at Neptune Theatre Tuesday.

“It’s a wonderful window into the world of real painters and the amount of commitment and sacrifice they put into every brush stroke on the canvass,” said Holmes on Tuesday.

Neptune’s Fountain Hall has been transformed into Rothko’s studio, equipped with assorted painting supplies — brushes, metal buckets, enormous canvasses — and large rectangular windows that overlook the unkempt space.

Actor Geordie Johnson stands at centre stage, colourful paint splattered on his shoes, and lights a cigarette. The dull smell of the smoke adds a certain authenticity to the tableau— Rothko was a chain-smoker.

The canvasses that surround him all have a deep red palette.

Neptune does warns about the smoke on its website, and adds that the play is recommended for ages 16 and up.

Holmes said that the Tony award-winning play is about life, art and life in art.

“It’s a relationship between an established painter and young apprentice,” said Holmes, adding that Rothko’s assistant Ken is played by Noah Reid.

“It’s where the conversation about art comes from, and the difference in their generations, and what their different generations bring to the conversation.”

Rothko is considered to be one of the foremost figures of abstract expressionism, according to Neptune’s website. He believed painting was an emotional and spiritual experience, for both himself and the viewers.

He died in 1970.

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