Thoughts from my studio about artwork; new pieces as well as those things that have have remained hidden in my flat file...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Working and Thinking: Working or Thinking

This week I have been cranking on quite a few pieces getting ready for the open studio on December 8. Typically I work on multiple pieces at once. This could mean 3 to 4 paintings, or right now it means over 25. Like I said, I'm really cranking on some stuff. I'm glad to say my new studio is in full swing for the first time since we moved.

I don't expect to finish it all for the open studio, but I'm preparing for a scheduled solo show as well as working on proposals for a few more. Having too much artwork to finish before a deadline ensures that I always have work in progress, at various stages of "completeness".

This serves multiple purposes:
  1. I don't have to face the intimidating "blank canvas" when I enter the studio after a break of a few days, weeks, or sometimes months of not getting much done in the studio (thank god for inventory). My fellow artists will sympathize with all of the "other" work that goes into being an artist that seems to take up more time and energy than the actual art making.
  2. Even if I haven't gotten much done lately, seeing work in progress makes me feel I have accomplished something; even if I spend four hours just staring at pieces on the wall and scattered on the floor. I know I am not the only painter who does this, and I insist that painting is at least 90% looking, but it does feel better when the paintings actually have some physical changes. It is also easier to prove to your friends that you have been in the studio.
  3. It provides a sense of continuity in the work, which is constantly evolving, in major, or minute increments.
The third reason came to mind tonight as I was putting aside the seventh painting and reaching for the eighth. If you read a general artist statement about my work from my website, it will become evident that I am not trying to define the colors I am mixing as I am working, but just responding to what is there. But none the less, as I was mixing up a color that JT or anyone else might claim was pretty damn close to pink, I was pleasantly shocked about the transition of my work in the past six and a half years since I left graduate school.

The process/perception based approach to my work hasn't changed much, but my the appearance of the paintings, and even the way I talk about them has changed. This past spring as I was finishing work for my solo show "Here and There" at the Arlington Arts Center, my wife commented on how much the surface and color scheme of my work had changed since she met me. Although she thought the new paintings were powerful, she was a bit disturbed that since she had met me, My paintings had transitioned from ethereal atmospheric cool (temp) calming compositions , to dark higher contrast paintings, with sharp impasto layers that seemed beautiful yet "disturbing" (another viewer's word from the solo show, not mine). See the transition for yourself:
Presence Number Two
Oil and Graphite on Wood Panel
56"x48" - 1999

Obstructed Vantage
Oil and Acrylic on Birch panel
48"x37" - 2007

Her point being of course, was had I become unhappy and disturbed since we had been together? I could see her point, but to me that the transition had taken quite a bit of time, and was practically seamless because of my process and habit of always having work at various stages, I didn't think about it too much until someone stated how different the paintings were.
Repetitive mark-making, layer upon layer of transparent marks and details that slowly reveal themselves to the viewer were in both paintings. As the artist, I had no doubt seen the transition, but was pleased and entertained by it, and suddenly, I had to explain "why the paintings had become so dark". (She preferred the lighter, more atmospheric works).

To me the paintings had become more deliberate, more defined, and confident. Clarity and defined compositions as opposed to completely ambiguous space and form. Surely thats the way I felt about the work, not that it was driven by depression or a bleak outlook on life and our relationship. Quite the opposite, I had found these images to be beautiful in their darkness, as well as the contrast of light/dark, or thick impasto with atmospheric transparent mark. There was more tension between the physical and illusionary, the structure and chaos, and I was reveling in its beauty.

I still am. The new work includes some new approaches, but look for the same contrast, things change and thus stay the same. None the less, I'm still trying to figure out how I got this "pink" paint under my fingernails...

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