Sunday, May 17, 2015

Crux of the Whole

Friday I delivered a talk about my work. Not having been in the space for a few weeks, the work strangely appeared foreign. It interests me how a body of work consistently constructs a life of its own when installed in a new environment. Each intimate decision that was reached in the process of making, each mark that was mulled over defined and redefined over an extended period of time, now exhibits as one effortless entity.  This too is a form of transient alchemy: a love affair destined to soon be broken apart.

Judith Kruger, Hammond Museum, May 15, 2015, photo: Amber Maida

I can only wish that my students would acquire a sense of creative confidence to let a work just evolve and be, without excessive judgment or even attachments prior to its release towards an effortless state. A true master knows how to physically complete a work way prior to its apparent resolution. It's the unfinished business that elicits the most intrigue in the “finished” environment. It’s the imperfect business that elicits the most intrigue in the “perfect” environment. Time and time again, I find myself in a white cube admiring the beauty of effortless gesture, accidental marks and painting outside the lines.

This of course is easier said than done. It is forced perfection that embodies imperfection that cries out as bad art. We’ve all been there at one time. A painter friend recently reminded me that it takes a discerning eye to know when something is not working. Although, on the other hand, at times, it's just not complete and ready for the quiet after the storm.

I saw this in Bill Jensen’s works at Cheim and Reid. I can only speculate that some nights he goes to bed with enough unfinished business to feel out of control. The next day, the wind blows in the other direction and this continues like a pendulum until one day, when the wind is calm and the fear vanishes, the painting says leave me be. I’m ready to depart.

Bill Jensen, Tamascheck, 2013, oil on linen, 28.5" x 23"

Few people have the opportunity to see this surrender to process-the daily ebb and flow in our studios. I intend to share some of mine here: a space that is uncomfortable at times, and yet, the crux of the whole.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Love Affair With Rain

The beginning of new work in the studio for my upcoming November show

I once asked a grad school peer, "How does one know what to make from day to day in the studio or even show to show"? His answer was "it's like falling in love. You'll know it when you get there- it just feels right!" I haven't stopped thinking about that.

Anyone who knows me would be the first to say that I have a nearly obsessive love-affair with natural pigments, Nihonga, arcane gesso recipes, obscure paint potions-alchemy combined with abstraction and the fusion of art and science (all subjects that will be addressed here on this blog), however none of that really can answer the What question about the work. It answers How, but not what.

Most would be surprised to hear an abstract painter addressing this issue. Are formal concerns enough? Is intuitive process alone ok? Yes, definitely, but for depends. It just feels too insignificant to wake up and say "I think I'll make a red painting today" or maybe if I search through some Facebook or Instagram images, I'll see some inspiration. That may bring a painting or two, but not a continuous flow. I need a mission and I have a lot to say.

It was back in the 90's when I had the opportunity to hear Mihaly Csikszentmahalyi speak about his  work on the subject of flow at the University of Chicago. He spoke of the optimal experience and cultivating purpose. I believe as an Artist, when those go hand and hand, love will come. And when that love comes, it will surely be communicated to others and more importantly, flow continuously and authentically.  It will dictate action all by itself allowing an abstract painting to evolve somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness. We need consciousness to begin, we need unconsciousness for the alchemy to unfold.

What am I painting right now? Rain. What am I reading right now?