For years I’ve been inclined to put down subtle washes that I would build, layer upon layer. I was immersed in the recognition of fast painting for so long during the eighties I reacted by defying painterly-ness in its most plastic form–thick layers of expressive oil paint. When I began printmaking for a living, working alongside and with the last of the printer painters of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, as well as pop and conceptual artists, from Willem de Kooning to Barbara Kruger, my head and hands were in ink and everything I considered about making art was examined under this new lens of printmaking.
I recently began considering how printmaking had an effect on my art when professor of printmaking at Brooklyn College and onetime printmaking colleague, David Lantow, visited my studio last month. David said he could see printmaking’s obvious impact on the evolution of my imagery and the manner in which I made art. My use of thin, relatively even layers of pigment and concerns for building texture graphically were indicators.
Oddly enough, I had never given this any serious thought before. The idea was liminal, but soon after our visit, I was reminded of what artist Mike Cockrill once posted on Facebook when discussing an artist’s misplaced search for an authentic voice, “Behold the core”, he said. An artist doesn’t have to worry about finding his/her ‘voice or style’ . The hand of the artist is always there in the work–no need to go looking for it.
Printing provided a mechanism for me to slow down my thinking and to hold me to task in considering every mark. Printmaking had helped to forge my visual vocabulary. What was I doing by painting? I began my latest canvases with a fresh, one pointed focus in mind: facture through painting.
I began to think back to other possible influences to see if they might lend clues to my essential concerns. As a onetime performing artist I found myself looking to ‘gesture’– again. It made perfect sense…’Behold the core’. In my gut and in my bones, from all those years of dancing (see Biography),’gesture’ in all sorts of space and light was central. But how did this fit with painting?
I found myself looking even closer at the surface of my canvases: swaths of thin white, and interference pigments, recorded trails of sensually flipped brushes on both dry and slippery surfaces over transparent-primed linen. But the soft warm grey of the canvas fiber was where I really began my inquiry. My pallet, though not dramatically changed, now seemed to ask for a spectrum of greys, warm and cool, between iridescent, translucent and opaque whites and dark glossy and soft matte blacks. I exaggerated the feathering of bleeding pigment on linen, blending the grey of linen and the grey of paint , co-mingling these ‘stitches’ inside broad gestural strokes, sensing the need for a wiry outward wending from vortexes of visual detritus drawing line back in.
Fragility of form, the power of gesture, the dissolution of drawing, traces and steps, edge and edge-less-ness, line of sight edits, a berth of vision– this is what I’m still after in paint.