Artist, Designer, Traveler, Writer, Photographer

“NO CHANCE”

July 31, 2014-August 7, 2014

The 30 by 40-inch painting on canvas, “Origin”,  marked the first new work this year. It was a difficult painting, laden with starts and stops and  layers of decisions as I built up the surface searching for the final state.

ORIGIN 2014

ORIGIN  2014    30 x 40 inches  acrylic on canvas

Even as I struggled with this work, I sensed a change. Questions come to mind. Have I finished with this series of dot and stain pieces? If not, where am I going? And significantly, what connections are there to my past work and  to contemporary art being created today?

As I mentioned recently, the creative well has been severely depleted. So it is wonderful to be working at all.  As in past times of such depletion, I am slowly emerging from the anaesthesia. I am looking at art again, art of all kinds. I am looking at what is happening in the capitals such as London where  The Tate Gallery is of course in the forefront of exciting contemporary art. A link from The Tate’s website to the iconic institution WhiteChapel Gallery has led me to their series of anthologies, Documents of Contemporary Art .  Historic and contemporary aesthetic ideas and issues are written about by artists, curators, and scholars.

My first two choices in the series are “Time”, edited by Amelia Groom, and “Chance”, edited by Margaret Iverson.

I chose the volume devoted to “Chance” because I had been thinking about the switch about a decade ago from work that was primarily figurative to non-representational work or abstract.  I had been thinking of conversations with a colleague who was struggling with her first attempts at abstract painting. I offered the advice to “search for the pattern” in the marks already made in her painting. This led me to analyze my own process, particularly in the ongoing series of stain/dot paintings. I had been thinking of the staining aspect in terms of “chance” and was considering a blog post on this process about a year ago. My tentative title, “The Game of Chance And The Search For Pattern” now seems flawed, at least in reference to my own work.

Now that I have begun to delve into the wider outlook presented in the Whitechapel book I can see that chance has little presence in these paintings. Considering some of the definitions of  “Chance” made this clear.
Chance
“A possibility of something happening. The occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.
Fortuitous. Accidental. Do something by accident or without design”.
 The more I read about the process of chance as used in past decades by people like John Cage and John Baldessari the more I realized that the only part of my process involving chance was the staining with which I began the paintings. Even here, I controlled the image by shifting the canvas to guide the flow of color. In the end I decided that chance was for all purposes, absent. In fact, the paintings are remarkably controlled from beginning to end.

Rather than chance, especially in this recent piece,  perhaps accretion would better describe the process.

The origin of the staining method began with the textile work decades ago. The application of fluid color onto the stretched canvas, a fabric after all, causes a similar result as my old dye processes on silk and cotton. There is a slight sense that the stain begins with no authority of mine,  But that’s where any possibility of chance ends. By tipping, blotting, spraying, I guide the flow of color as much as possible. I search for a pattern, yes, but one that fit my sense of composition on the surface.

photo4

These photos give a bit of of the steps in the process of trying to work out this painting. As the top photo shows, it as a difficult process, with attempts covered over.

At some points, it seemed the solution was in hand. But no, the painting was far from the final state. I was tempted to resist the usual complexities of the dots, to leave the composition in a far more spare state of positive and negative.

photo7

But there seemed to be in irresistable force at work. I felt driven to continue  finding “islands” of color and dots in the field of the canvas.

Untitled New Painting 2014

This photo gives the “terrain” of the painting. From these “islands” developed the pattern that also sustained the stains from which the picture began.

Here are details of the finished painting~

 

2014-08-04 13.56.50

Origin 1

The process of naming this painting was just as difficult as making it. I really searched my associations for a title which would not be trite or overly suggestive and narrow. In the end, a television program on until now unseen formation of stars gave an idea. Photographs beamed from distant space showed what astronomers called a “natal environment”, a place where a new star might be born. This painting was actually a beginning in a sense. It did record, in the process of its making, the state of chaos that precedes solution or manifestation. So rather than the rather unpoetic “natal environment”, the title “Origin” seemed appropriate.

In answer to my question of whether these dot and stain paintings have come to an end, the answer is no. The blank canvases await.

 

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