I have had the amazing opportunity to meet many artists through interning at the Brodsky Center for Innovative Editions over winter break and into this semester. Through this I have had many wonderful and immensely insightful conversations and critiques. I will post aspects of some of the critiques on my blog. My first post will be about my recent discussion with local artist, Harry Naar.
We first began talking about space in a painting--how size of marks, color, and placement can change the visual perception of the space in a painting monumentally. Looking originally at figurative paintings and landscape paintings, Harry Naar elaborated on the importance of the color changing as it recedes in space and the attention to how the marks interact with a mark next to it or a color next to it. These seem like obvious aspects to making a figurative painting, but in fact, when not done, they leave the observer lost in a sea of marks that do not fully form the image or contain holes of understanding. When a shape of an arm comes out of a sleeve of a shirt, the artist must make the choice to render the shadow as it wraps around the form of the arm coming out of the shirt, so that it becomes understood that the shirt is above the arm or on top of the arm in space. In landscape painting as well, light sources must correlate, especially when reflected, and how the color changes just slightly can move the viewer's eye back and forth in a painting tremendously, instead of just sitting on the surface. In addition, if using a photograph to make the work, what will the use of it be? Is the artist using it to gain useful information or is it considered a photograph, and used for its ability to already see space and calculate information for the eye? By the end of the discussion the main point that arose was the idea of consideration, the consideration of mark, color, size, and how the artist decides to control the viewer's understanding or seeing of the painting. Making the painting with integrity, with consideration of everything at their disposal, using the eye to their advantage and the way in which the eye works, is a part of painting that seems at this moment to be the most important. In the beginning, I did not relate these comments to my own work, but as I looked at the marks I am making in my more abstract pieces I found myself seeing the same problems. My paintings do not have any true or considered relation to space; my colors do not have any considered relation to each other or the whole, and my composition does not spatially bring the viewers eye anywhere except the center of the painting with no useful reason.
As if seeing my work with completely fresh eyes, I began to understand the problems I was having so immensely, connecting on what felt like another level with Harry Naar's suggestions and comments. I also realized that during the making of a painting I would often question myself, why am I putting a mark here, why am I choosing this color, why am I choosing this size of mark, and I have never been able to really answer these questions or find ways to answer them. I finally feel now that I have some footing that I did not seem to grasp as a young undergrad. In addition, other comments that Naar made were about connecting the viewer's eye to a mark and continuing throughout the painting: when a mark starts in a certain place, with a certain color, start at the end or the top of the previous mark further along on the canvas and keep a consistent correlation between marks/brushstrokes. Though these ideas may seem to make things calculated, they give things reason, they give my paintings a certain credibility that they are seriously lacking. Many people have remarked that I tend to place things in the center, and when seeing that, as well as my tendency to break up the canvas into two sections or multiple sections, Naar said that it forced the eye to move to the center or stay divided, stay in one place and hardly move around; but then when the eye moved to that area, what was there to look at? What becomes the importance of being made to look at that place? What do they gain?
Naar also suggested using a painting by Piero della Francesca and recreating it in terms of my own mark making and painting style, using the color, composition, space, and interaction of these things, with everything there already. I can learn greatly from an exploration of work such as this and understanding why it works the way it does. Also, creating a painting using just mark and using only 2 or 3 colors, limiting the palette and really considering each mark, each decision.
Being extremely attentive to the way in which I place a brush mark, a line, a stroke of the hand, a calligraphic word or phrase, being completely obsessive and immersed in my approach, the reason for my approach and the choices I am making will create paintings of more interest, more depth, and more credibility.
This conversation will continue to be enormously important as the months progress and I continue to work on my final thesis project: an installation covered in my paintings. Taking serious steps to create an elaborate and fully immersive environment with only paint and canvas will be hugely influenced by this conversation, as I will begin to hone in my consideration and attention to every decision I make.