Monday, August 2, 2010

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).

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.


- 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).


- 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

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