Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Another "Shortcut"

Here is the next installment in my tiny abstract painting series. I've been playing with this idea for only a month and already I am getting restless to go back to painting people. I know when I finish this series I will do exactly that-- my goal however is to approach it differently both in the painting process and in the idea.

There are several things that I am thinking about in the overall scope of my paintings. I am not sure if I want to keep painting "surreal"-- however I don't want to paint straightforward scenes. I don't know exactly what I'm chasing after but I know that I want to move away from anything remotely pop surrealist and hope that people will also stop asking me if I like Dali. (I hate Dali. Hate hate hate.) These aren't the reasons for changing things up-- but after working in Advertising Illustration for years and now being unemployed (due to the recent crash of the ad industry) I am getting perspective and realizing that advertising & illustration had a pretty large influence on my work. But I want to deconstruct that somehow.

Secondly, I want to challenge myself with the paint itself. With color choices, application, tools & marks. I want to play with peripheral vision, shifting light, movement, unity of time and place. Some of these things are ideas I've touched on before or have been inspired by art I have seen.

One of the most inspiring pieces of art I saw recently was the Scenes from the Tale of Genji Screen (1677) at the Gardner Museum in the Journeys East exhibition (until May 31.) There is no good image of the screen online and photography was not allowed in the museum so I don't have one to share. (You can google it and get similar Tale of Genji images.) But the screen had a series of buildings with gold clouds separating them. And you could see what was happening inside the buildings from almost an omniscient point of view. What I was drawn to was the lack of unity of time & place-- and the ellipsis of space.

Another inspiration is from a (Early Christian?) painting that illustrated a bible story and had the main figure repeated along a path to show a journey. (This is another image I've never been able to find because I saw it so long ago and forgot the details.) But this is another idea I've had in the back of my head for a while and have wanted to play with.

As for painting inspiration-- I have been making a list of some contemporary painters who's work I love (and am very jealous of.) The list so far:

Frank Ryan (you can view some of his work here and here) The pieces I loved most cannot be found online (why don't great artists these days have websites?!) but were shown at the Walter Maciel Gallery. What I liked most was the application of paint and how one could see how the painting evolved as he worked it. There would be figures that were added or taken out-- and it was imperfectly done so it had feeling of transience. The lack of preciseness was brilliant-- and it made me realize that I have a tendency to get too exact when I paint. Often the early stages of a painting are the best and I'm trying to learn when to stop touching things that already work. More importantly-- I'm trying to get the right mix of precision and looseness (such as a face being precise and the body/background being loose so it lends a sort of "focus" to the piece instead of an all-over equal focus that I do with my recent paintings.

Kent Williams (view his work here and more deliciousness here)is a master of directing focus in his portraits. I love the messy loose sections mixed with the glowing flesh of figures and commanding faces. I love the feeling of the paint in his work too and how it seems to be in motion. I would like to show more of my own hand in my paintings-- right now they feel somewhat static. But once again my work is often loose and gestural in the beginning but it gets hidden as I continue working.

Matt Bollinger (another artist with no official website but his work can be seen mainly on his blog here, you'll have to browse to find paintings) is my most recent discovery and I haven't seen his work in person-- but I know it can only be even better off the internet. What I love about his work is the color, the paint application & textures, and the compositions. I have a tendency to be too literal when it comes to painting figures and so when I see work like his I am immediately drawn to it because it has much more atmosphere than painting the same old sky is blue/trees are green/skin is pink way. Seeing work like his makes me confident that messing around with abstract pieces for a little while will be good for me and will get me out of my old color routine. Not that my color was bad before-- but for me it was becoming like a recipe I know by heart.

Also Frank Ryan and Matt Bollinger both paint from video which has been intriguing me as well (being a filmmaker myself.) This is something I will definitely play with since I love the element of time that a still photo does not have.

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