Sunday, January 31, 2010

Residency 2 Summary

Jill Christian
Residency Summary
Advisor: Deborah Davidson
1 February 2010

Residency Summary – January 2010 – Group 2

Three major issues or areas of focus came to the fore during this residency: the need to do more work and become a better painter, the need to think more conceptually about my work, the need to find more contemporary painters to help situate myself in the present as an artist. (Wisely, someone also suggested: work hard, think hard, but don’t mentally defeat yourself.)

Opinions about which paintings worked best were split between the three types of work I brought: the figurative/gestural, the sticks/still lifes, and the looser abstract paintings. While I agree that working off the sticks as a formal vehicle is a method I will continue to use, I felt that Laurel Sparks correctly assessed that slowing down really is fighting against my nature. She also felt that there was strength in the paintings where I was able to be more inventive and risky in the arrangement of marks and range of application. The stick paintings are a good, but they also have a quality of being consistent and of “working within parameters”. Laurel suggested that I do paintings with much less material and fewer elements--slow down the call and response and the decision-making, but with very little information. I need to get myself away from the habitual way that I’m applying paint. It was a suggested that I work in polarities and disorient myself: make something that is too small for its space and something that is too big for its space. I feel that it is important for me to work in both directions this coming semester: continue with the stick paintings, and also experiment with drawing using alternative tools, and creating abstractions that translate photographs or other visual sources.

Related to this, a number of people suggested that I seem very rooted in modernism and the traditional medium-specific mindset of painting and that I need to get current and think in terms of what issues painters are working with today. I need to expand my reference beyond what I know, which is essentially abstract art before 1970 or so. Three areas to focus on are: history, theory, and whom am I connecting with right now. It was suggested that I start thinking about my work in terms of what theory it relates to, how I situate myself in relation to history, and start building a critique of my work within a contemporary context. It was suggested that I read, among other things, Frank Stella and Ed Ruscha.

More than one person said that I need to be more intellectual and conceptual about the work. There needs to be a philosophy and concept behind my art. Otherwise, it’s just about formal issues and personal preferences. It was suggested I ask the questions: “Why am I a painter?” “What is my relationship to the paint?” “What kind of surface do I want to end up with?” It was even suggested that before I sit down to do another painting, I think long and hard about these questions. Other advice suggested that I just get down to painting and let what comes naturally to me be my guide—experiment and do a LOT of painting. Laurel suggested that I focus directly on the painting process and figure out what “gets me there” so that I can paint in a way that I want to paint. I believe that I need to work with both issues at once. Stefan suggested to get out, sketch/journal daily; eventually patterns will emerge and become evident. This is a great way to allow my interests and work to lead my thinking. I appreciated the talk on “The Cult of the Personality” as well as Tony Apesos’s and Vincent Desiderios's talks, in part because of how these illuminated the ways in which the sources of ones ideas and ways of work – the decisions and choices one makes as an artist – are profoundly personal and reflect ones background, cultures, education, personal history, etc.

In the studio, I plan to make a lot of smaller pieces this semester, allowing myself to work fast. Some will be a continuation of my work with the still life, and will include a series of drawings with Sumi ink. I also plan to experiment with both filling up and emptying out the space in the canvas, experimenting with contents being too small / too big for the space, asking myself the question, “how do I make a painting out of very little? Out of a lot? Constanze suggested that I think about the medium I’m using – and try to think in a less medium-specific way. She suggested that I look at Rosalind Krauss’s book, Voyage on the North Sea, which I have begun reading. Some of Stefan’s suggestions related to this, including: construct collages of “the feelings”; create objects and work with ideas that represent a feeling; do some works completely without subject (but think about what your ideas are). It was also suggested that I do tonal studies, try new mark-making tools (sticks, hardware brushes (would give soft/diffuse marks), finger painting (the idea of pushing feeling through your hands). Other suggestions included drawing more, and considering monotypes.

Areas of research suggested include looking at artists who work with “overwhelming” means, versus artists that deal with economy of means (e.g., Agnes Martin – though I feel I need to also find much more contemporary artists). I am also interested in investigating the Baroque as it relates to today’s excess of imagery. I found a quote by Jaoa Ribas who said: “I’m also interested in a new internalism in painting, a solipsistic, hermetic formalism—Richard Aldrich coming out of Raoul De Keyser—an approach that’s contemplative rather than literal” (Douglas, Sarah. Field Guide: Interview with Joao Ribas. Modern Painters. February 2010. 16-17). I think this “hermetic formalism” might be one interesting avenue to explore and compare with other work that’s more related to saturated imagery and the digital.

Finally, Laurel gave me the advice to just be more confident and to start to learn to locate myself in terms of what I accept and what I reject. I was told that I work hard, I’m open to experimenting with new ideas, and so now I need to challenge myself to “know what I believe, and know what I reject” for my own work. And to also distinguish what I love that someone else is doing, but is not part of what my own work is about.

This upcoming semester I hope to work really hard and break out of some of the conventions and ways of thinking that are holding me back. As Laurel so aptly said in one of our talks, “Well, it’s not like you can do that just overnight. It’s a project.”

Below is a summary of other suggestions and lists of artists to look, books to read, and exhibitions to research (and see if possible).

Richard Aldrich (
Kristin Baker (Carol)
Robert Bordo (Laurel)
Marcel Broodthaers [Belgian, 1924-1976] (Constanze)
Cheryl Donegan (Laurel)
Howard Hodgkins (Laurel)
Jacqueline Humphries (Laurel)
Raoul De Keyser (Laurel, Constanze)
Per Kirkeby (Hannah) (
Michael Krebber (Constanze) []
Brice Marden
Agnes Martin (Deborah)
Julie Mehretu (Oliver)
Georgio Morandi (Laurel)
Carrie Moyers (Deborah)
Albert Oehlin (Constanze)
Jackson Pollock
David Reed (Constanze)
Sterling Ruby (Carol)
Ed Ruscha (Rob)
Robert Ryman (Laurel)
Tiepolo (Jan)
Cy Twombly (Hannah)
Charline von Heyl (Laurel, Jan)
John Walker (Hannah) (shows at Nielsen/Boston; Kohdler/NY)

Bois, Yve Alain. Paining As Model.
Fer, Briony. On Abstract Art.
Freid, Michael. Theatricality in the arts.
Friedlander, Walter. Mannerism and Anti-Mannerism.
Godfrey, Tony. Painting Today.
Krauss, Rosalind. The Originality of the Avant Garde and Other Myths.
Krauss, Rosalind. Voyage on the North Sea.
Kuh, Katharine. Break-Up: The Core of Modern Art.
Kuh, Katharine. The Artist's Voice: Talks With Seventeen Modern Artists (2000).
Martin, J.R. Baroque.
Nickas, Bob. Painting Abstraction: New Elements in Abstract Painting.
Saccoccio, Jackie. What State Abstraction. BombLog (
Sarup, Madan. An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism.
Stella, Frank. Working Space.

Modern Painters
Art in America

Affinities:Painting in Abstraction, curated by Kate McNamara, CCS Bard College, Annandale-on Hudson
Bad Painting/Good Art, (exhibit, June 2008) MUMOK Vienna
Besides, With, Against, And Yet: Abstraction and The Ready-Made Gesture. The Kitchen. Nov. 11-Jan. 16, 2010. New York, NY.
Susan Rothenberg: A Particular Perspective (Jan. 22-May 16 2010, GOK Museum/Santa Fe).