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January 18, 2011

Another revelation.






I am a painter. At times, I have made video and objects, and once produced a short-lived zine. I used to have a smart sounding statement. It made sense and rang true, but it was wordy. While working on a batch of watercolors and gouache this weekend, it occurred to me that all of my work is simply about troubleshooting and damage control. 




I've been without a statement on my website for some time. On one hand I want my work to be about everything. It gives me an out, an excuse, to make whatever kind of art I want, from whatever point of view I want, and explore anything, without having to rewrite the statement. After working primarily abstract, it threw me to be forced to come up with a statement about the somewhat representational work, beginning with the pools and flowers paintings, especially since they referenced a difficult time in my life. I gave up and boycotted writing a statement. I figured I deserved that break. 
In the past I have written that my work is process-based. It is. I have also written that my work is narrative. It is. But perhaps I've used the word, narrative, when the more appropriate word would be document or record, as in, a record of time spent painting, or a document of what I was processing during the course of my daily life. It is also true that the more representational works were/are narrative in the context of the traditional definition of narrative. 
As I was mindlessly working on watercolor this past weekend- totally lost in the moment of painting, because for some reason, unlike my canvas paintings, watercolor is a near trancelike activity for me- I realized that other than my uber pithy statement: I like to paint— my paintings are about troubleshooting and damage control. The mediums of watercolor, and particularly gouache, were the key in unlocking this revelation. I like watercolor. It was the first medium I started painting with, and since I had no expectations of why a watercolor painting should be difficult, it was not particularly difficult, plus at a young age, I was told I was good at it. I didn't start using gouache until much later, and again, I did not think it was a particularly difficult medium to work with either. I'm not being cavalier, I just wasn't aware of the endless frustrations these mediums cause people. This weekend, a friend mentioned that his students hate gouache because it is such an unforgiving medium. At that point I became aware in my own work, that yes, it actually is an unforgiving medium, as is watercolor. Both can get muddy in a split second, and more or less, once you lay some marks on the page, it's there to stay. Which is when I realized that in my own work, I was not just idly painting in a trancelike state of mind, but that I was actively engaged in end-to-end moments of rigorous troubleshooting and damage control.
And thus, the first paragraph above which is now my current statement. 
Thoughts?

3 comments :

Carla said...

It's an interesting and clear revelation that makes good gutteral sense to me.

I think it will confound many viewers, but that may be good to. Especially if they are coming to art with belief it is a relaxing activity.

M.A.H. said...

It also occurred to me that sometimes my art is a bunch of lies. It's winter here, my backyard is a mud pit, I question my current state of affairs, and I'm intuitively using colors that look make it look like I'm on a carnival cruise.

I have no answers.

Elaine Mari said...

No answers is a good answer.

"I used to have a smart sounding statement. It made sense and rang true, but it was wordy." Oh damn, I just wrote one of those (or at lease I hope it was smart sounding;).

"On one hand I want my work to be about everything. It gives me an out, an excuse, to make whatever kind of art I want, from whatever point of view I want, and explore anything, without having to rewrite the statement. " Struggling with that right now, so many irons in the fire, and need to iron out some things around where to focus. i.e. take some irons out.

Good post, lots to think about. Short and pithy is good and troubleshooting and damaage control certainly takes the romantic edge off painting, but is kind of romatic all the same.