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

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).

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