Except for a single painting course at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, during which the teacher quickly accepted the fact that he was going to go his own way, no matter what the assignment, Powelton Village native, Emil Baumann, has had no formal art training. Since he first began painting, his work has reflected his visions, which may suggest external stimuli but which always come, as Emil says, “from inside.” He pays great attention to his dreams, in which colors and forms that inspire new work often present themselves. At fifteen, while living with his parents in Kenya, Emil became a member of a community of Kenyan, Sudanese, South African, and European artists, who inspired, collaborated with, and challenged each other. His extraordinary use of colors and his innate sense of form amazed and inspired the older artists and viewers, and they have continued to do that wherever his art is shown.
Emil works in intense spurts, experiencing periods of astounding output, which are usually followed by periods in which he paints very little. He created most of the work in this show quite recently. People familiar with his work will be struck at first by how different this new work is. Still boldly colorful and completely nonrepresentational, it is marked by stronger lines, much more saturated colors, and a denser, more textured coverage of the surface of the paper than previous work. Another innovation is Emil’s use of small segments, cut from old work, which he has attached to some of his new work with thick multicolored cylinders of paint which he partially mashes against the paper, thus creating highly dimensional surfaces. There is little to be seen of the fine lines of many of his paintings from the last two years. The ceramic pieces as well partake of the heightened color saturation of the work in this exhibit. It seems most accurate to describe what is new in this show not as maturation of style but rather as current manifestations of the ever-changing visions that have been amazing and delighting viewers of Emil’s work for many years.