Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Work

acrylic on canvas, 42"x34"
From 2010 December



acrylic on board 8"x8"
From 2010 December

acrylic on canvas 32"x32"
From 2010 December

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mary Weatherford, PNC MFA Lecture

Tonight listened to Mary Weatherford's February 2010 lecture at Pacific Northwest College:

http://untitled.pnca.edu/multimedia/show/875/

She talks about Emerson, P. Adams Sitney, Agnes Pelton...

Art Lab 9 painting

Sent this off to Jeffrey Ebeling's Art Lab 9 event. (Nov. 30: Yeah! It sold.  I'm so glad the sale went to a good cause).

I've been looking at a lot of geometric stuff lately and decided to shamelessly borrow and see what would happen.


"Something Borrowed", acrylic on paper, 7"x5"
From 2010 November

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Studio work for Nov. 9

Harmony has encouraged me to think of the period from now until January as a "mini-thesis".  I have started a series of 30"x36" (with some variations).  I also painted a picture of my two children, which I completely enjoyed.  I'm giving myself permission to go back and forth between representational and more abstract paintings.

From 2010 November
in progress, 30"x36", acrylic on canvas

From 2010 November

in progress, 30"x36", acrylic on canvas
From 2010 November

Untitled, 30"x36", acrylic on canvas
From 2010 November

Monday, November 1, 2010

And / Also: Improvisation in Abstract Art

Jill Christian
Advisor: Barry Schwabsky
Group 3 – Paper 4
1 November 2010


And / Also: Improvisation in Abstract Art

“The painter no longer approached his easel with an image in his mind; he went up to it with material in hand to do something to that other piece of material in front of him. The image would be the results of this encounter" (Rosenberg 589).

As Harold Rosenberg articulated in his 1952 essay, “The American Action Painters,”  for many Abstract Expressionist painters in the 1940s and 1950s [1] (particularly those painters who were working gesturally) the idea of painting as an act was fundamental to their painting process.  This painting act was to unfold spontaneously and intuitively, allowing the subconscious of the artist to be revealed on the canvas through the interaction of the artist with the materials.  Key to this approach, was a particular way of beginning:  without a preconceived idea (or with at most a skeletal motif or image).  By suppressing rational thought (the idea), the painting would then become a unique expression of the individual artist’s psyche.  Although Rosenberg’s writings expressed concepts that would prove too dogmatic and extreme (for painters) if followed to their ultimate conclusions (i.e., dispensing with the painting object [2]),  the approach of letting a painting emerge in an intuitive way through the act of painting remains a valid and innovative practice, which can be compared to musical and theatrical improvisation.

One problem with Rosenberg’s notion of painting as pure action is that painting is a language built out of of the use of certain materials -- an essential one being paint -- and a vocabulary that is visual.  The limits of a medium and its formal language can be extended: materials can be borrowed from other mediums such as writing, sound, sculpture, drawing, etc.  Still, painting is primarily visual, and it communicates through the very things Rosenberg says can be dispensed with: “form, color, composition, drawing” (pg).  A painter who wants chooses to stay within painting as a medium, would not wish to dispense with “all” formal elements, no more than a musician would want to dispose of sound.  They may even want to expand on the formal elements available to them.

Nevertheless, acknowledging Rosenberg’s ideas gives the artistic process at least equal weight with formal considerations, and recognizes the idiosyncratic and individual nature of expression.  In particular, although Rosenberg does not address improvisation specifically [3], improvisation allows for the acceptance of history and tradition, but leaves open and embraces the possibility of innovation through creatively combining, borrowing, and playing with established idioms (Improvisation, Smith).

Artists who continue to paint with an “expressionistic” sensibility frequently use improvisation in order to invent.   Rather than approach the canvas with a specific image in mind, they engage in a complex process of drawing upon their technical skills, their visual memory, and their muscle memory, in a way that is very similar to musical improvisation.  The “in the moment” process of improvisation is only possible through a mastery of visual language (Inprovisation, Smith), rather than its denial as Rosenberg implies.  It involves a deep understanding of the process in which one is engaged (Improvisation, Smith).

Improvisation acknowledges, unlike the Surrealist’s notion of Automatism, the role of technical skill and conscious decision-making.  Hazel Smith in Improvisation, Hypermedia and the Arts Since 1945 discusses the difference between automatism and improvisation saying:
Automatism was a form of improvisation, though its practitioners tended to describe it in a somewhat romantic and idealistic way, as a direct route to the unconscious. In addition, automatism clearly attempted to minimize the control and interactivity of which improvisation is capable (12).

First generation Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Polock,  were highly trained in the visual language of painting, and frequently used a kind of visual improvisation to generate new ideas and compositions.   Leigh Bullard Weisblat, describing Willem de Kooning’s process, said:

To avoid a preconceived idea or subject, he sometimes began randomly, painting a word or number. He also adapted the concepts of collage by making paper drawings that he tore up and placed on the surface of the work... After each spontaneous gesture de Kooning deliberated over the fresh strokes, incorporating free associations in the compositions but never letting go of conscious control (143).
Similarly, in discussing Jackson Pollock’s painting of Mural, Arthur C. Danto says, “one imagines that each move suggested the next, and bit by bit some form began to emerge. It would have been inconsistent with the methodology of creative automatism to prepare sketches or studies, as Pollock acknowledges in his speech at the beginning of the film” [Namuth’s film] (Danto).  Yet Danto points out that compositional intentionality emerges in the clear orientation of the final compositions, indicating an adherence to the directionality convention of easel painting. (Danto) [4]


Similarly, Joan Mitchell, a second generation Abstract Expressionist, talks about how the beginning of her paintings originate in a “memory of a feeling” or “remembered landscapes that involve my feelings” (Barris).  Mitchell uses the languages of color and gesture to express a personal, intuitive vision (Barris).  In a 1986 interview, Yves Michaud asks Mitchell what she wants from a painting.  Mitchell responds:  “.... I don’t set out to achieve a specific thing, perhaps to catch motion or to catch a feeling....My painting is not an allegory or a story. It is more like a poem” (Mitchell 33).  She talks about the painting being in control and allowing the process to determine what happens next: “I am ‘no hands,’ the painting is telling me what to do” (Mitchell 34).  At the same time, Mitchell was very aware of and converse in pictorial language of painting.  She says,  “I was so and still I am in such adulation of great painters. If you study a Matisse, the way paint is put on and the way he puts on white, that’s painting technique. I wanted to put on paint like Matisse. I worked hard at that a very long time ago” (Mitchell 34).  Mitchell had internalized and incorporated a pictorial language that she then could use to create innovative, intuitive, gestural compositions.

Similar strategies of improvisation and allowing a painting to “emerge” can be seen in a contemporary painter such as Charline Von Heyl.  Although working in an entirely different style than the Abstract Expressionists, Von Heyl talks about content and subject unfolding during the painting process and claims she never begins with an idea (Kaneda 83).[5]  In a 2010 interview with Shirley Kaneda in Bomb Magazine, Von Heyl talks about how an intuitive process enables her to escape the dilemma of abstract painting as design.  She says, “As long as I know what I’m doing, I design.... I can get beyond it only in the unknown...I don’t want to make the painting, I want the painting to invent itself and surprise me.  That surprise is the surplus value that makes it all worth it for me“(Kaneda 85).  Asked how she begins a painting, Von Heyl tells Kaneda:

I just start them. Here’s a white canvas, and I’m going to put something on it.... It’s completely intuitive. A color, a movement, whatever. Very much depending on the mood du jour.  It’s like a writer putting the white sheet in and starting to write something. You know that you are going to transform it and transform it, but you just have to start somehow. (83)

This strategy is similar to those used by de Kooning, Pollock, and Mitchell, and seems to trust in the process of improvisation to generate new and dynamic paintings though the dialog of the painter with the materials[6].

Improvisation is composing on the fly.  It requires deep understanding of an idiom or style so that elements can be combined in original ways (Improvisation, Smith).  It also requires the artist to “be in the moment.” Smith says, “This fusion of ‘awareness’ and ‘understanding’ brings the practitioner to the point where he can act with a range of options that best fit the situation, even if he has never experienced a similar situation.”   Although Abstract Expressionist painters believed in the idea of automatism, and Rosenberg’s writings focused on the idea of action, which would take precedence over formal elements, aspects of both of these concerns are resolved through improvisation.  The benefit of improvisation, as opposed to “pure action” or the “subconscious” of automatism,  is its adaptability and innovative potential.  Improvisation encourages innovation since it “opens up the idea of adding and combining elements from different idioms and styles and conventions” (Smith 12).  It allows for individual expression in the context of a formal history[7] without necessarily becoming to pastiche[9].  It does not require the suppression of the conscious nor the rejection of formal language.  Rosenberg said, “What was to go on the canvas was not a picture, but an event.”  Another way to look at it is that the painting is both a picture and an event.  And for certain abstract painters, one that is improvised.

Works Cited


“Abstract Art.”  The Grove Art Series: From Expressionism to Post-Modernism. Ed. Jane Turner. London: Macmillan Reference Ltd., 2000. 2-13. Print.

“Art Informel.” The Grove Art Series: From Expressionism to Post-Modernism. Ed. Jane Turner. London: Macmillan Reference Ltd., 2000. 53-55. Print.

Landfield, Ronnie et al.  Artist Talk. American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters. LewAllen Galleries, Santa Fe New Mexico. October 30, 2010.

LewAllen Galleries. American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters. October 29-December 12, 2010. Santa Fe, NM: LewAllen Galleries, 2010. Print.

Barris, Roann.  “Abstraction and the Figure in the Second Half of the 20th Century.” Online Paper.  Radford University Museum. Web. 25 October 2010.

Danto, Arthur C. “Pollock and the Drip.” The Nation. 7 Jan. 1999. n. pag. Web. .  25 Oct. 2010.


“Improvisation.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.


Kaneda, Shirley. “Charline Von Heyl.” Bomb Magazine. 113. Fall 2010. 80-87. Print.
 

Mitchell, Joan. “Joan Mitchell: Interview with Yves Michaud (1986).” Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings.  Ed. Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. 31-34. Web. 

Rosenberg, Harold.  “The American Action Painters.” Art in Theory: 1900-2000.  2nd Ed. Ed. Charles 

Harrison and Paul Wood.  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008. 589-592. Print.

Smith, Hazel and R.T. Dean. Improvisation, Hypermedia and the Arts Since 1945. The Netherlands: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1997. Web.


Weisblat, Leigh Bullard. The Scribner Encylopedia of American Lives: 1997-1999. Vol. 5. Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, Arnie Markoe. New York: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 2002. p. 142-145. Web.


Wood, Paul. Varieties of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Footnotes

[1] Abstract Expressionism, Art informel, and related movements, “shared several characteristics: an emphasis on impulsiveness and spontaneity that rejected predetermined composition and that frequently equated drawing with painting; a concentration on the individual mark or ‘tache’, as opposed to the straight line or carefully circumscribed shape; a concern for the expressive potential of paint and its textured or optical effect; and a sense of immediacy in the execution. Qualities of freshness and urgency led to a physical awareness of the artist’s contact with the picture surface and the act of painting itself, manifested in the USA by action painting" (“Abstract Art”/Grove Art).

[2] This was suggested to me by Barry Schwabsky in e-mail correspondence: “Mary McCarthy to Harold Rosenberg: ‘You can't hang an event on the wall.’”  Rosenberg, in “The American Action Painters,” discussing the “special motive” for “extinguishing the object” says that it was motivated by the desire to make the act, and what is revealed through the act as primary, or more important than the object (either within the painting, or taken to its extreme, the object itself).  (Rosenberg 589).  Rosenberg says that the American painting is not “pure”....”The apples weren’t brushed off the table in order to make room for perfect relations of space and color. They had to go so that nothing would get in the way of the act of painting.  In this gesturing with materials the aesthetic, too, has been subordinated.  Form, colour, composition, drawing, are auxiliaries, any one of which -- or practically all, as has been attempted logically, with unpainted canvases -- can be dispensed with.  What matters always is the revelation contained in the act” (590).

[3] I have not fully read all of Rosenberg’s major essays, but I am not aware of him directly addressing the idea of improvisation.

[4] In his Jan. 7, 1999 essay in The Nation, “Pollock and the Drip,” Arthur C. Danto uses a painting by Joan Mitchell (Ladybug) as a jumping off point to talk about the use of the drip.  He says that for the Abstract Expressionists, “The drips affirmed that paint has an expressive life of its own, that it is not a passive paste to be moved where the artist wants it to be moved but possesses a fluid energy over which the painter endeavors to exercise control. The act of painting then is like a match between two opposed wills, like the act of taming tigers. The internal drama of Mitchell’s painting derives from the way she uses paint’s propensity to drip to her own advantage by taming it with over-strokes of pigment through which she displays her own discipline and power” (Danto).  He talks about how the drip had become “theatricalized.”  He claims that Pollock’s work was all about controlling the drip.  That as an adherent to the concept of psychic automatism, it was necessary for the paint to obey the “active artistic power.”  Pollock isn’t so much as drip as calligraphy -- and the painting is layed flat, preventing “drips”.  In comparison, Mitchell worked vertically -- her paintings imply a top and a bottom.   In Pollock “the painting... internally determines which edge is top and which is bottom...allowing paint to drip removes that ambiguity.”

[5] Von Heyl said, “I’m certainly not interested in depicting anything, but neither am I interested in abstraction for its own sake (Kaneda 83).”  She talks about coming from an environment where painting was approached in an ironic way (Polke, Kippenberger, Oehlen)  --- “heavily male, very jokey, and ironic stance toward painting. Anarchistic and also quite arrogant (Kaneda 83).”

[6] Charline von Heyl says, “To think and to write about painting is also a possibility to reinvestigate and redefine the basics, which each generation should do (Kaneda 84).”

[7] On October 30, 2010, I attended an artist talk for the exhibit “American Painterly Abstraction: 7 Painters” at the LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The exhibit   highlights a small group of paintings done in the 1960s to 1980s by a group of New York painters who struggled with abstract painting in the wake of Abstract Expressionism.
 

In the talk, Ronnie Landfield talks about how, starting out as a painter in the 1960s, he found his roots in Abstract Expressionism: “Pollock taught me how to paint and put the canvas flat on the ground; Hoffman taught me about hard and soft, about space.  Noland taught me about color as language, and Matisse taught me the language of the surface. into his own as a painter.”  He describes how he had a moment of revelation during a studio visit with Stephen Green from the Art Student’s League, when Green asked him, “Do you want to be a second or fifteenth generation Abstract Expressionist painter?”   And he realized that his work had become a pastiche; derivative [Landfield is speaking about the idea of finding one’s idiosyncratic voice, which requires a deeper exploration of one’s beliefs, values, attitudes, sensibilities, and expression].  Committed to painting, the answer was not to abandon the medium, but to revisit how one was using the idiom or style, and find a way to make these one’s own, rather than reiterating the gestures of the previous generation absent an exploration of one’s own particular sensibility.

The brochure essay for this exhibition states that this group of artists “perceived that the dense, agitated Abstract Expressionist aesthetic had devolved, from what once had been an authentic record of an artist’s intensive immersion in the painterly process, into what was quickly becoming a studied and standardized mannerism.”  According to the essay, “They responded resolutely and with significant visual innovation that often included a new sense of openness and clarity as key compositional innovations within this historically important aesthetic.”  In the exhibition, one can see an artist like Joan Snyder finding new, and idiosyncratic ways to explore the gesture and the drip (see Vertical Strokes with White Ground, 1969.)  An artist like Peter Young explored his interest in the oriental and spontaneous writing.  Bill Pettett, at first emulating AbEx, talks about his “responsibility” for coming up with their own aesthetic.  These artist used the language of Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism in new, improvised ways: applying paint without the brush using sticks, spray guns, squeegees, pours, stains.  But primarily their interests were in the intuitive, the expressive, and mostly the materials of paint.  Some of the language I heard during the artist talk echoes that used by Rosenberg (and one can assume Rosenberg wasn’t just inventing, but was reflecting language in use in the studios he visited in the 1950s and 1960s).  Bill Pettet says that he “liked the idea of stepping into ‘an arena’ of the canvas.”  Landfield talks about wanting to depict an inner truth based on sense and perception rather than “what I think I see”.  Asked about how he gets ideas, Landfield responded:  “The innovation comes from your life. Initial impulse, passion drives you to paint... but responds to the muse of the moment.  Primarily it is language of surface, color, finding a way to get paint on canvas in a way that relates to what I am seeing now -- expressive art has to communicate.”   Young said, “You have to make it new, yet nothing is new.  I don’t trust the intellect. It takes a period of meditation...repressing thought.  Then things will well up....inspiration, intuition.”  On behalf of her late husband, Dan Christiansen’s wife spoke about how Dan talked about having to trust in the eye.  That it’s a distillation. Artists see and look at a lot of art. You begin to differentiate. When creating, this all informs you and the work (Landfield).


[8]    The entry for Improvisation on Wikipedia has a short definition of improvisation:  “Improvisation is the practice of acting, singing, talking and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of one's immediate environment and inner feelings. This can result in the invention of new thought patterns, new practices, new structures or symbols, and/or new ways to act. This invention cycle occurs most effectively when the practitioner has a thorough intuitive and technical understanding of the necessary skills and concerns within the improvised domain. Improvisation can be thought of as an "on the spot" or "off the cuff" spontaneous activity” .

[9]    Pastiche is considered a “hodgepodge of styles”.   There is a negative connotation to pastiche, which may or may not be deserved.  On the one hand, it can be viewed as innovative, on the other hand it can be seen as a “dead language” and “without humor” as described by Frederic Jameson in “Postmodernism and Consumer Society.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastiche).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Clem Crosby

While in San Francisco I saw a small group of paintings by Clem Crosby at George Lawson Gallery. In particular I was interested in the idea of painting over something in a way that almost obliterates it, and the way the paint gesture lay on top of the smooth formica surface. There was an illusion of thick strokes, but the paint was actually quite thin.  I could see all the traces of the brush in the surface. I could feel the energy of the movements and follow their making.

(c)Clem Crosby, "Butterfly," 20009. Oil on formica. 35"x35".


Here is an excerpt from an interview with Clem Crosby by Alli Sharma on the blog, Articulated Artists:

"In Butterfly, it’s equally a gesture and a line but I don’t want it to be figure and ground so I don’t want it to sit on top. Drawing is where I start, literally by moving the brush around as I would a pencil. I’m really stuck with this new painting. I don’t know what I’m doing. But this is where I get to, an impossible place, and then I just have to let go of all my ideas because they’re useless. And the paint won’t do what I want it to do. But then, at that point, when everything collapses, somehow I make this space where I let the work go and something happens. It’s really difficult to explain because it’s not a zen moment or anything like that. It’s just really tedious getting there." -Clem Crosby

Another artist I looked at was Sherie Franssen at Dolby Chadwick Gallery. I responded to the gestural, landscape/figurative elements of her work - and the color. She reminded me of Cecily Brown (perhaps too much; there is even one painting on the website that overtly references Brown's "Aujourd'hui Rose, 2005." There are the same copulating figures in a landscape. I found that to be a little bit disappointing. I need to think more about why.

(c) Sheri Franssen. "High Water," 2008, oil on canvas, 81"x77"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paper 3: Development of the Grid in the Work of Louise Fishman and Joan Snyder

Jill Christian
Advisor: Barry Schwabsky
Group 3 – Paper 3
5 October 2010


"The grid is an emblem of modernity by being just that: the form that is ubiquitous in the art of our century....." – Rosalind E. Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths



Development of the grid in the work of Louise Fishman and Joan Snyder


In her 1978 essay, "Grids," Rosalind Krauss puzzles over the ubiquity of the grid in modern art, saying, “It is not just the sheer number of careers that have been devoted to the exploration of the grid that is impressive, but the fact that never could exploration have chosen less fertile ground. As the experience of Mondrian amply demonstrates, development is precisely what the grid resists (Krauss 9).”

Though the grid may “resist” development, it has proven to be productive ground for artists who have used the grid as a structure and as a convention to adapt to their own expressive requirements. Louise Fishman and Joan Snyder are two artists who have used the grid extensively over the course of their careers in ways that demonstrate the developmental and narrative potential of the grid.

Fishman and Snyder were born a year apart in 1939 and 1940 respectively and both came of age artistically during the in the late 1960s and 1970s. Fishman completed an MFA in 1965 and Snyder in 1966. They each moved to New York and were greatly influenced by New York School Abstract Expressionist and Minimalist trends.

The late 1960s and early 1970s, when Fishman and Snyder were finding their “voices” as painters, critical attention was primarily focused on minimalism and conceptual art – painting had been declared “dead” (Cohen). At the same time, both artists were active in the feminist groups, and were looking for new vocabularies and experimenting with alternative materials (David Cohen).

Although Fishman was strongly influence by the Abstract Expressionist who immediately preceded her, in the 1960s her work was primarily grid-based, influenced in part by Minimalists such as Sol Lewitt, and she was linked with Pattern paintings. But by 1970, she was looking for a new vocabulary that was outside of what she saw as the male-dominated minimalist structure.

By 1970 she was cutting up her grid paintings and reconstruction them “into works that sometimes assumed the form of wordless, stitched-and-stapled canvas books; or sometimes she would punch holes in the canvas and thread rope through the holes to create a tactile grid (Deitcher).” An example of this type of work is Fishman’s “Untitled” of 1971 (fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Louise Fishman, "Untitled", 1971 ©Louise Fishman.


In this piece, Fishman subverts the notion of the hard-edged grid by joining together strips of unevenly edged, acrylic-coated canvas. Rather than creating a grid structure in paint on the canvas surface, she has loosely sewn a raw, uneven grid using string. The work becomes an object resembling a book, or quilt. At the same time, this work displays many of the elements that her later gestural abstract paintings would show. Although roughly and imprecisely cut, the canvas strips are subtly organized in gradations of blues and grays, which create a sense of varying spatial depths. Where the strips meet, shadows of at the edges create a vertical linear grid. The brownish string overlays the canvas strips in a horizontal pattern, with knots connecting the strips at regular intervals. Both the linear element of the string in front of the canvas, and the color relationships of the cool receding strips and the warmer string/line on top creates another layer of space.

During this same time period, Joan Snyder was also reconsidering her relationship to minimalism and expressionism through the grid (Bui). In a Brooklyn Museum online biography, Snyder is quoted as saying, “I was slowly developing a language with which I could speak and communicate....I remember wanting more from Color Field painting and not being moved by Minimal art, which was mostly sculpture at the time. These were the works I was challenging--to have more in a painting, not less; to show the anatomy of a painting, the different layers as it was being made, the process (Brooklyn Museum).”

Although like Fishman, Snyder was reacting to the trends of that time [it was “in the air”, she said (Bui)], Snyder describes how her use of the grid came out her work as a teacher, seeing the children’s painting on lined paper, and an epiphany she had looking at how her paint had formed drips on the tongue and groove wall in her studio (Bui) . “...So I started incorporating the drips on the grids....But it was a structure for me to either destroy on the way to making the painting or stay within like a musical staff, providing order (Bui)”


Fig. 2 Joan Snyder, "Summer Orange", 1970, oil, acrylic, and spray enamel on canvas, 42" x 96, ©Joan Snyder

The result of her explorations were her early stroke paintings on a gridded surface, such as Summer Orange (1970). In this painting, the underlying horizontal
grid is visible. On top of the grid, Snyder lays out lush, vibrant strokes of varying shades of orange, red, yellow and purple. Drips are allowed to transgress the borders of the lines in which the stroke lays. The strokes are also organized in four vertical groupings, each with its own character and energy, determined by color, length and integrity of the stroke, and adherence or deviation from the horizontal.

In the essay “Joan Snyder: The Geography of the Surface”, Jenni Sorkin writes, “While seemingly resistant to Minimalism, Snyder’s incorporation of the grid belies an interest in the placement of a framing device within her compositions....What began as an intervention has evolved into a signature inclusion (Herrera 64).” Following the stroke paintings, Snyder continued to develop and play with the grid, using it as an armature on which to include more and more varied strokes and materials. In a recent painting like Brooklyn 2010, though the grid is still sensed compositionally, as are the strokes, the materiality of the surface has taken over, and the grid structure is filled with paint, found plant materials, and fabrics.


Fig. 3 Joan Snyder, "Brooklyn 2010", 2010. acrylic, pastel, burlap, fabric, herbs, rosebuds on linen, 54" x 72", ©Joan Snyder

Fishman, like Snyder, continued to use the grid as an armature when she returned to gestural abstract painting in the 1980s. In a 2002 LA Times interview, Fishman said, "As soon as it became clear I had gone through that evolution, I decided to use the materials and techniques that I had rejected....I invented painting again in its classical form. I decided I wanted to embrace it. I got yards of fresh linen and had it stretched. I allowed myself to immerse myself in the beauty of oil paint. It was very exciting for me. (Drohojowski-Philp)". In Fishman’s later work, the grid is covered, intersected, troweled over, and overlaid with gestural calligraphic marks. Yet, in spite of the density of the paint and multiple layers, a space is created by the overlaying of marks and push-pull of warm and cool colors, for example in the 2008 painting, Gorgeous Green.

Fig. 4. Louise Fishman, "Gorgeous Green", 2008, oil on jute, 24.25"x32", ©Louise Fishman.

Although both Snyder and Fishman may have initially explored the grid in a reaction to minimalist art of their early career, each have made the language of the grid their own, expanding upon its possibilities, and asserting it or suppressing it as required by the needs of their painting. Both artists adopted the grid as a way to respond to the abstract art that immediately preceded them and the painting that was happening at the time they were developing their own voices and vocabularies in the 1960s and 1970s. The adoption of the grid, a traditional modernist structure, allowed each artist an armature which propelled their thinking about painting process, materials, and history. Rather than impeding their development, or locking them into stagnant repetition, Snyder and Fishman continue to explore and expand the ways their process and materials interact with the grid structure both have relied upon throughout their careers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brooklyn Museum. Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Louise Fishman. Biographical entry. .

Bui, Phong. “In Conversation: Joan Snyder with Phong Bui.” The Brooklyn Rail. Sept. 2008. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. .

Butler, Sharon. “ArtSeen: Louise Fishman.” The Brooklyn Rail. May 2009. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. .

Brooklyn Museum, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Joan Snyder. Web. 30 Sept. 2010. .

Cohen, Cora. “Louise Fishman.” Bomb 37, Fall 1991. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. .

Cohen, David. "High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967-1975." Art Critical.15 February 2007. (version appeared in the New York Sun, 15 Feb 2007 under title “Painting When Painting Was Dead”. Exhibit at the National Academy Museum, New York, February 15-April 22, 2007. (accessed 9/30/10.) .

Deitcher, David. “Vitruvian Woman.” Web. 29 September 2010. .

Drohojowski-Philp, Hunter. “On a Journey Begun Again Many Times: Louise Fishman's work has long mirrored her evolving political and spiritual outlook.” Los Angeles Times. 14 April 2002. Web. 27 Sept. 2010. .

Herrera, Hayden. Joan Snyder. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2005. Print.

Krauss, Rosalind E. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press, 1985. Print.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I owe Faith Ringgold

From 2010 October


I've always loved Faith Ringgold, and especially "The Sunflower's Quilting Bee at Arles". Here's my riff in collage and acrylic on board.

From 2010 October

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mentor Meeting with Harmony Hammond 9/25/10

Drove out to Harmony's studio for our meeting this morning. Got on the road at 6:45 am. The sun was just beginning to peek over the Sandias. Driving east the early light softened the desert--Light greens and golds from recent rain. I can't think of many things more beautiful than the Southwest landscape in the morning.

To begin, Harmony showed me an early Louise Fishman painting on paper that she has in her studio, followed by a slideshow. She brought up things like how you maintain the honesty of the lines. How you keep the paint alive and fresh as you work on a painting. Marks as carriers of meaning. How an artist builds a vocabulary of the surface. How elements integrate or don't integrate. She also touched on how women (and not just women) artists in the 1960s and 1970s were searching for and experimenting with new ways to think about what a painting is. She showed me slides of work where Fishman sewed together strips of canvas cut from her own paintings. (She mentioned that Lee Krasner did this as well, collaging her own work into other paintings). Sort of a cannibalization or deconstruction. Fishman also painted on found materials: cut scraps of plywood, found discs (tondos).

I brought in new work (below):

From 2010 September
acrylic on canvas (in progress), 44"x42".

From 2010 September
acrylic on canvas (in progress), 36"x36".

From 2010 September
acrylic on canvas, 30"x32".

From 2010 September
acrylic on canvas, 33"x26.5".

From 2010 September
acrylic on panel, 32"x32".


Harmony's feedback/discussion:


- The paintings read okay from a distance, which is good, but I am still struggling with the surface/paint issue. They don't hold up close.
- Think about what makes marks feel gratuitous vs. in response to the painting process.
- Restrict the color palette of the underpainting. The paintings with more restraint work better.
- Think about how light hits the paint surface.
- Ask "can this work hold its own out in the world" (how do you know it's done).
- When I go back to "edit", think of how to find the way in. Don't force yourself to work all over...I can edit a small section.
- Pay attention to my tendency to fill in all 4 quadrants and to work in "patches."
- The overt striped painting feels more contrived. Think about the honesty of the marks.
- Large brushes working well. Stroking from edge in; edge out is working. Darker palette is working.
- Pay attention to language and value judgments: the "checklist" of "good" painting. Think about describing, not judging. For example, "there's no place for the viewer to enter," or "there's no focal point." Who says good painting must have a focal point?
- Decide. Choose.

Preparing for January:
- Pick a shape, dimension. Decide on square or rectangle, or make the canvases a single height and then mix together squares and rectangles. (Also think about how you can divide the canvas in similar ways).
- Consider rectangle as a way to suggest the landscape vs. depicting it. The painting space as landscape space.
- Complete 2 canvases for November meeting, with 4 in process.
- Goal is 6 completed canvases to bring to final meeting (and January residency) that are "ready for the world".
- Decide which part of this exploration interests me most for now. Pick something to commit to for the next 4 months.

Look at...

Terri Rolland (www.terrirolland.com). Consider how she handles bands of things coming in from the outside edges of the canvas.

Mary Heilmann.


O'Keeffiana
exhibit at GOK Museum. Consider the translation from the sketches to the canvas. How O'Keeffe performed much of her critical decision-making during the initial looking and selection of the abstract shapes she observed.

Patrick McFarlin: (Obituaries and (mini) Masterpieces). LaunchProjects. Sept. 15-Oct. 17, 2010.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

San Francisco!

Planning a trip to San Francisco. Here are a few upcoming exhibits I don't want to miss:


(c)Louise Fishman, Zero at the Bone, 2010 oil on canvas
Louis Fishman at Paule Anglim

September 29 - October 23, 2010
14 Geary Street | San Francisco, CA 94108
Tues-Fri: 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM / Sat: 10:30 AM - 5:00 PM
http://www.gallerypauleanglim.com




OUT OF ORDER: geometric systems in contemporary bay area art

Featuring the work of Taha Belal, Gail Dawson, Leeza Doreian, Chris Duncan, Amy Ellingson, Mitra Fabian, Mike Henderson, Jim Melchert, Danielle Mysliwiec, Gay Outlaw, Laura Paulini, Mitzi Pederson, Shirley Shor, Jill Sylvia, Andy Vogt, Ann Weber and Alex Zecca.


SF Moma Anniversary Show

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lines

From 2010 September


Work in progress, acrylic on canvas, 28"x28"

I've been looking at fences--through fences. They're everywhere here in New Mexico. To keep cattle in. To stop people from entering building sites. They're blown down, punctuated. Things fill their holes. And they screen and frame.

Not sure if this is god-awful or if I like it.

I've been paying attention to the direction of the stroke -- does it start in the middle, or at the edge. Where does the stroke "exhaust" itself.

I've also been trying to load up the brush with paint. Tonight I tried using almost no water to dilute, and used glazing liquid. It's a hard habit to break. But I realized that I was spraying my palettes (I'm using muffin tins and butcher's trays), and by the end, I'd have washes. So I was working thinner and thinner instead of thinner to thick. Kind of silly I didn't notice that before.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mentor meeting with Harmony Hammond

Today's meeting began with an incredible slide show of Joan Snyder's work spanning her very early (maybe even college) work to more mature work. Harmony accurately guessed that what we miss in this program is the opportunity to view work with an advisor/teacher and discuss it. We're told to go "look up" this or that artist. But we don't then get to have a conversation.

Harmony wanted me to see how personal iconography develops over an artist's career. How it's not a linear thing, but rather these things come in and out, and resurface. It was wonderful listening to Harmony just describe what was in the work. The way particular marks are laid down. Do the horizontal marks appear to start from the outside and move to the inside? Or do they go back and forth. To see from the beginning the interest in the materiality of painting (including bringing in non-paint materials, like gauze) and the body. How personal events and states of being and relationship appear. In the early work, the "pimples" (my word) of paint foreshadowing the eventual cuts in the surface, the sutures, and the poultice of paint filling the cuts. I never thought about Snyder's use of the grid, and it was so interesting to see the way she used it and broke it and how it changed in function and form over the years.



No Skeleton for Evsa, 1971. oil, acrylic, and spray enamel on canvas, 78" x 108" (http://www.joansnyder.net/paintings.php?image=36) (c) Joan Snyder 2010




Altar Painting III, 2009. oil, acrylic, cloth, on linen, 48" x 48"(http://www.joansnyder.net/paintings.php?image=335) (c) Joan Snyder 2010










I feel I brought in two successful paintings that I feel excited about:
From 2010 August
From 2010 July
These a have a boldness and freshness that I am drawn to. There's this idea of the direction of the stroke and coming in from the edges toward the center. There is layering and you can see through to the layers below. I like the idea of looking through something (a screen, a fence) and both of the source photos did this. In one the "screen was flower petals" in the other, it was a gate with a landscape behind it. The paint has a substance and surface. At the same time the color is working (Harmony noted that I am using the source as a reference for my palette, and it's coming from the landscape). I also didn't bother will all the cropping of the source images. I just began, and only used the source very, very loosely. Harmony picked up on this and suggested allowing the palette to come from the source, and not so much the composition. That is where I can be inventive.

Then, tough love.

Surface Surface Surface

The absolute biggest issue I need to address is the surface: the flatness of the material (separate from pictorial flatness). The challenge is learning how to create a surface that is alive and interesting. Right now my paintings -- in general, and specifically on canvas and panel -- don't have a painting presence -- they are flat. And it is about the surface and materiality and their readability as a paint object and art object. Some of them read okay online. We talked about how this is a dilemma of the times -- not that my painting dilemma is of the times, but that so much art is seen on-line and it's a flat way of seeing things, and it can mask a lot of deficiencies of surface (Barry Schwabsky alluded to this in his talk at AIB/BU, "What Not To Paint and How Not To Paint It". I completely agree with this and I remember talking to Deborah about this my second residency. I'd done a couple of larger paintings, and I just felt there was this surface issue that I couldn't figure out -- and I remember talking about the rest areas being plasticy and flat and just not working for me. I couldn't figure out why and what I was doing (or not doing) that was making it look unsatisfying to me.

So, how to I work through this?

Above all, Harmony said just do a lot of painting. There is no thinking my way out of this. I have to paint and paint and paint.

Load up the brush. Harmony noted my tendency to "scruff in". In my notes I drew a big circle with a line through it. She mentioned this last time. So far my successes have been on paper. Moving to canvas requires a lot more material.

Look at a lot of paintings. Observe the surface and how paint becomes material. Harmony gave me a list of galleries to regularly visit. (I still don't know if I can get to NYC or LA).

Learn to go back into a painting. This has been an ongoing issue for me. Harmony suggested approaching the painting as if each time I work on it was going to be it (forgetting about this idea of building up in a more traditional way with an underpainting, etc.). Again, I need to just do this a lot -- discover how I go back in.

I brought the issue of oil paint up again. I just think I should be painting in oil.

Believe

I have really worked to de-personalize critiques of my work in this program. And I decided that I would be open to suggestions and be willing to take advice. Harmony acknowledged this as a positive thing. At the same time, she encouraged me to begin drawing some lines: just because something is observed, I don't have to take the advice. I can accept it as an observation; nothing more. It's important to develop my own choices and my own judgment. I'm beyond the point of needing "assignments".

Bring it up to the present

Harmony's suggestion for research was to bring it up to the present. Her feeling is that it's great to look at history (the Baroque period, the AbEx period, etc.), but that it would be more relevant to look at what is happening today. I interpreted this specifically to mean to challenge myself in developing the skill of visual analysis. One suggestion was to do a visual analysis of work by somebody like Joan Snyder (who is both "historic" and contemporary) and Tomory Dodge or Benjamin Butler. I'm excited by this idea.

So, Harmony felt (and I completely agree) that the primary task for me is to tackle this surface challenge. My goal is to paint a lot and consider all the possible ways that I can build the surface, whether that's preparing the support, using acrylic thick out of the tube, using oils... I need to figure out whatever that needs to be or works for me. In the studio, pull down everything except my "successes" and let those be my guide. I've got six weeks until our next meeting and two papers mixed in there.

On the one hand I feel a small let down that I'm not where I would like to be. On the other, I feel completely energized and excited.

Things to go see

Milton Avery at Riva Yares (through Sept. 26, 2010)

Georgia O'Keeffe, Abstraction (through Sept. 12 2010)

Wayne Thiebaud: Mountains, GP Gallery (through Sept. 25 2010)

Squeak Carnwath: A Little Light, Turner Carroll (through Sept. 13)

Jay De Feo at Dwight Hackett

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

work in progress

From 2010 August



From 2010 August
[8/20/10 -- painting over this today]

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

studio work

From 2010 August
[8/20/10 -- painting over this today]

From 2010 August
[8/20/10 -- painting over this today]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"What you do and what you don't do."

"I try to tell students to do the things that come the most naturally, but at the same time do the very thing that you don't know how to do and that you're afraid to do. You should do two things at once: what you do and what you don't do. I think what you do instinctually proceeds from your heart. And what you don't do is what you need to learn with your head. So you need to do both." --Amy Sillman in Joe Fig's Inside the Painter's Studio, p. 197.

From 2010 August
("study", acrylic on paper, 22"x22")

Monday, August 2, 2010

studio update

From 2010 July
[8/20/10 -- painting over this today]

From 2010 July
[8/20/10 -- painting over this today]

Third Residency Summary (June 2010)

Feedback from Barry Schwabsky

Barry got back to me with feedback. He thought I'd been able to capture a thorough and honest look at myself and some of the issues I face. He said that the questions and recommendations encompass more than I'll be able to explore in one semester.

I feel good that I'm dealing with issues that will sustain my practice and interest for a long time to come.

He highlighted a specific dichotomy that I can set to work on: the possibility of introducing more variety into the construction of the work (bearing down in some areas while letting up in others) versus greater uniformity. He said that these ideas are not in contradiction and that I could go back and forth. However, it would be useful for a short period of time to choose in order to conduct the experiment into what would happen.
He suggested looking at Benjamin Butler as an artists who has chosen (at least for now) to work with a certain uniformity of marks within each painting.

===

Jill Christian
Group 3
Advisor: Barry Schwabsky
Paper 1 - Residency Summary
1 August 2010


Third Residency Summary


This June residency, I brought quicker, smaller and more experimental work, mostly acrylic on paper. My intention with the work on paper was to break away from the still life studies represented in the 12”x12” panels. I also set up exercises for myself (limited palette, starting with different source material, etc.). I wanted to see what would happen if I got really close up into the still life so that it becomes more completely about mark. I displayed the work in a grid to encourage people to consider them as a single exploration.

The issues that came up during this residency related primarily to the compositional structure of the paintings, creation of a pictorial space, intentionality, and the need to uncover a larger subject for the work. Also brought up was a question about the level of technically proficiency my work suggests, which points to a need to expand my painting vocabulary and skill. (Another possibility relates to John Kramer's comment that the fact that he might wonder how much painting experience I have is an interesting clue about the motivation, principles, and goals of this body of work).

Composition/Structure
I am still searching and working through some basic painting issues. I continue to hear the complaint that I’m not letting the viewer into the painting. Laurel and others noted that I tend to paint everything up to a similar level. I work everything up to a certain frontal point and then stop. Laurel suggested “bearing down” in certain areas and letting up in others, which would increase the dynamics, tension, inner space/inner world of the painting. She also suggested that if I’m interested in my work having a certain ambiguity, then I need more contradiction. One way to achieve that would by to tighten up in some areas, and let other areas be loose. For example, an artist like Tomory Dodge creates paintings that never quite get realized as an image, and so are suspended between image and something that asserts the paint and color and its subject. [One the other hand, I do make (or did make last semester) frontal images that don't have many places to enter].

I am working towards discovering just what type of composition I am dealing with: is it related to representational painting? How? What kinds and what time periods? Likewise, to what kinds of abstract composition does my work relate?


Intentionality/Subject matter


I received many observations that my painting seems tentative and somewhere "in between." There was a feeling that I need to be more definitive. I think this is not only a pictorial question, but a question of subject. I need to examine the relationship of looking at source material to my work. Right now, I cannot fully articulate that relationship. My second semester mentor, Gerry Snyder, was very supportive around this area, saying that just because the relationship is difficult to see does not make it wrong, it just means it will take a while to find the connection. He reassured me that if I consistently do something, it is because it is important and needs to be acknowledged, even if it seems irrational or inexplicable.

Both John Kramer and Audrey Welch encouraged me to be authentic and stay in touch with my process. That the work becomes exciting when it becomes an investigation. If I keep paying attention and engaging in my process, then the work will begin to tell me what is required. It was suggested that I hold onto the energy and vitality of my brushwork. John advised me to not stress myself out by having to figure it all out before I make the first mark -- stay loose and free in the process, but then step back and have a process for looking at the work after the fact.


Below is a summary of the questions that were raised and recommendations for this semesters.

Questions/Explorations

- What does it mean when there is a dichotomy between how the work looks, and how one arrives at the work? What artists are/have dealt with this question? What is the idea driving the dichotomy? What does it mean to deny the viewer access to the source of the experience? What does it mean to share that with the viewer -- the attitude that we are all equally together in the work.

- What does it mean to make work that appears gestural and “automatist” but is actually arrived at by looking, cropping, and editing something observed in the natural environment? Is there a possibility of finding out something about this by painting more realistically? Or at least giving some kind of distillation of what is observed that is more clearly pre-arrived at?

- Do I want the paintings to have a nebulous quality that might create a certain anxiety or discomfort in a viewer and a desire to have things be more tangible and defined?

- How might I edit out things that are secondary (the work seems indecisive, and at some mid-point where what it is hasn’t yet been fixed).

-Is the surface part of the subject, or is it just a vehicle for something else?

-What is the nature of the marks, and how specific or generic should they be? Is my emphasis on construction of the space? Right now, they seem “in between”.

-What is the relationship between the mark and the structure overall? What would it mean if some marks were very different from the other marks? What would it mean if they have less individuality?

- I am in an experimental place with respect to illusionistic space versus flatness. How might this be a function of composition? How might this be a function of color (e.g., using blue is a strong trigger as a way to organize the picture, typically as a landscape)?

-Is this about landscape? When you look at something under a microscope, it suddenly becomes its own space, its own landscape, with its own crevices and horizons. Deborah suggested looking at late de Kooning, Joan Snyder, Joan Mitchell, Mondrian, late Monet, Jackson Pollock, Cecily Brown, Dana Schutz (thinking of he vigor of the brushwork and the energy).

Recommendations

- Set up a project each month with my advisor that will really be very productive. For example, work on a specific kind of mark-making or the construction of a specific type of space.

- Employ a regimented manner of applying the paint (e.g., a brushstroke of one size, shape). See what you can build with one basic building block (Barry).
Look at a lot of work in person. Try to schedule a trip to NYC. To teach oneself to paint abstractly, you mimic and look at a lot of work. Observe how the paint is applied.

-Look at paintings solely to understand the compositional structure. Write about how different paintings are organized.

-Take a painting class. It appeared to some that I don’t have a very big painting vocabulary, and I need to immerse myself and get feedback on my mark-marking strategies. My work is now very flat and on the surface and it doesn’t allow the viewer to, as Judith said, “go on this journey of discovery with you.” However, I am not sure that I will be able to manage taking a formal class in the evenings and also have time for my own studio work and research.

-Consider bringing drawing skills into the paintings to anchor things.

-Research the history of abstraction. Make a canon of people I think are important and know exactly why. Then, analyze their painting in order to understand what they do, and how they do it.

-Change the source material/subject matter. The still life might be too limiting. Consider taking my own photographs. Consider not using the computer to manipulate or crop, and instead squint or use a viewfinder. Consider painting from photographs of interiors that have recession in space (kitchens?). Look at someone like Julius Shulman.

-Think about composition. I am producing the same spaces: flat. It does not seem like I understand color and value on an intuitive level. I need to do it enough so that “it’s just there” and I don’t have to think through all these things every time. It needs to become a facility, like speaking a language.

-Write about your own work. Describe it. The language that you use will start to tell you things. Hang up work together with the sources. Look at what is crossing back and forth. Don't restrict yourself or segregate the work. Keep it open. Document.

-Consider exploring issues of beauty, with regards to what kinds of things I want the viewer to walk away with and what attitude I think the painting manifests. For example, Albert Oehlin often starts with a beautiful painting, and then has to mess it up in some way.

-A lot of artists talk about going to the studio and having daily drawing or something that is a limbering up exercise.  I was advised to not make that my work this semester. Jan felt that it would negate many of the issues that I’m struggling with, namely the kind of relations between composition and size and how I’m going to organize my mark making in different scales.  Jan suggested I consider the larger passages versus something that is more intense or rapid or even staccato -- to think about where there is stasis, where there is activity.

-I want to work in a larger scale. My larger paintings don’t seem to have the same surface quality as the smaller paintings. I want to challenge myself to tackle this issue. Deborah suggested that they may just need more work and more building up. I’ve been thinking about this since the residency. In studio classes, I learned to work “alla prima.” I never got away from that and I have developed a way of working that allows me to finish quickly and avoid a disconnect if I am not able to return to a painting for some period of time. I think it is worthwhile to think about how to sustain a painting over time so that it can develop.

-Finally, be four-fifths of the way done with the thesis research by the end of this semester. More than one person said that it is very important to be very solid about where I’m going with this body of work by January since the draft thesis will be due in April. John Kramer and I talked about the long span of time and experience required to uncover and understand your deeper subject (Gerry and I discussed this, and Jan said "it all comes down to how much time you can give it). He suggested that I "could" consider a thesis that is about an investigation, process, and a goal.


Artists Recommended

- Tomory Dodge
- Late Monet
- Brice Marden
- Louise Fishman
- Mary Heilman
- Milton Avery

Friday, July 30, 2010

Studio work 7/29/10

"Nature is not on the surface; it is in the depths. Colours are the surface expression of this depth. They grow up from the roots of the world. They are its life, the life of ideas." --Cezanne (in Becks-Malorny, 74).

From 2010 July
[construction study, 22x22" acrylic on paper]

Mostly pushing paint around. Thinking. Sketching.

One issue raised during the residency was how frontal my work is and how everything is worked up to the same level. I've been thinking about my process and materials (it was also suggested that I take a painting class to improve my technical handling of paint and color).

So I've been looking through some items on my bookshelf: Aristide's "Classical Painting Atelier", and Stephenson's "Materials and Techniques of Painting". Just thinking about the ways you can make a painting. The ways to start it; to build it. In addition to reading about Tworkov, this week I have been looking at Cezanne (Ulrike Becks-Malorny's "Cezanne" and Gasquet's "Cezanne: A Memoir with Conversations"). I also went to see the exhibit at the ABQ Museum, "Turner to C├ęzanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales". It's a bit of a tangent as my project this semester was going to be researching 1940s-1950s abstract expressionism and current painters who claim these as their influences.

But maybe not so much. Cezanne built his paintings and they have a solidity of form and space. Yet in the brushstrokes, especially in his landscapes of the early 1880s through the Mont Sainte Victoire paintings of the early 1900s (see below), there is an all-overness that I feel relates strongly to abstract expressionism.

From 2010 July
[Cezanne, Paul. Le Mont Sainte-Victoire vu des Lauves,
1902-06. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 X 32 in (65 X 81 cm). Private collection/Venturi 799.]

Not only is linear perspective rejected, but also illusionism of color and forms. "Cezanne believed that colours and forms should be given equal weight and clarity whenever they appeared in the picture. The surface of the painting should be uniform in structure, and should eschew any form of illusion or naturalism. This meant that the incidence of light had to be almost the same throughout the picture, and he therefore largely avoided any references to a recognizable light source and the use of heavy shadows. The light is even, and comes from within the painting itself; the objects radiate their own light (Becks-Malorny 49)." So how did he then suggest space? Color and the relationships of color within the composition.

Cezanne worked slowly, building up his forms gradually. Light in his painting is created through color. Rather than using light tones to suggest light, he used intensity of color. "He used light and dark colours to create areas of light and shade, and he used contrasts of colour to create the structure of his paintings. He spoke of the particular ability of blue to give breadth and height to a space or, as he put it, 'to make the air tangible' (Becks-Malorny 75)."

Regarding technique and building a painting, it has occurred to me that I've developed a certain way of working out of necessity and time constraints that may or may not be serving me any longer. In school -- in studio classes -- I learned to work "alla prima". And it fit well how I painted (energetically, gesturally, intuitively). I did learn how to create an underpainting and work slowly and realistically, but that was not how I spent most of my time. I just continued working that way because it allowed me to work in fits and spurts as I could between full-time work, the MBA program, and then parenting. It allowed me to be interrupted and still paint something. There's nothing wrong with working this way. It's just that I want to figure out whether this is really how I want to work and how I work best or whether this is a habit.

Joan Mitchell considered each gesture before she made it (or so I read).
From 2010 July
Joan Mitchell (1925 - 1992), UNTITLED 1977, Oil on canvas diptych 76 3/4 x 89 3/4 inches overall 194.9 x 228 centimeters 76 3/4 x 44 3/4 each panel, CR# MI.10396
(http://www.cheimread.com/artists/joan-mitchell/?view=selected)


I'd like my work to open up to possibilities. I feel I've barely begun. At the residency Judith Barry said there's a point where your work will start to speak to you and tell you where it needs to go. Time and work -- to learn to speak, to listen.

---
Becks-Malorny, Ulrike. Paul Cezanne (1839-1906): Pioneer of Modernism. Koln: Taschen (2006).