Paint is the most luscious of all media, messy, meaty and stubborn. It exerts an aggressive presence, never wanting to be denied once it reaches the canvas. In the face of attempted obliteration, it fights to be remembered, its color and texture always leaving a trace. In this past year, influenced by the sensations I was able to capture in printmaking and photography, I have been resisting this inconvenient truth. So concerned with representing absence, I forgot paint’s fundamental need to be present. Inspired by the works of Christopher Wool, Gerhard Richter and Jacqueline Humphries, I began working only with processes of erasure, but after many failures, I have come to realize that, for me, erasure is only half the equation. If desire lies in concealment, then my painting process must become a process of burial. Now with each painting, I oscillate between modes of indulgence and denial, alternating between acts of burial and excavation. Ultimately it is for the viewer to continue the excavation process.
In the studio, I move between intaglio and screen-printing, photography and painting, the material and digital, each work emerging from a composite of these processes. No method of image-making is out of bounds, and no medium is sacred. Every work is corrupted by the intervention of a competing medium, both in process and perspective, and each work has the potential to breed new works. Images beget images.
This re-production of images in my practice is not to further the genealogy of spectacle, but rather to exorcise my own relationship with an image. It is only through the act of making that I gain access to more intimate findings. Discoveries are made in the act of trying to make my sensations visible, in fighting to see beyond surface. Leon Kossoff is a British artist with a similar method, drawing from old masters paintings as a means to get inside the image:
“Kossoff’s painted version of [Poussin’s] The Triumph of Pan was made after the accumulated hours spent drawing from the original had enabled him to experience the picture on a deeper level than the solely visual. It is through establishing his own private bond with the painting that Kossoff’s own painted response emerges.” (Wiggins 53.)
In my own experiments this past year, I tried to abandon my visual source material, thinking that my engagement with materials would be stronger and more interesting if I didn’t have the crutch of an image from which to work. But what I learned is that for me, the act of making is inextricably linked to the act of looking. In coming to this realization, I was reminded of an essay by Siri Hustvedt in which she surmises why the painter Giorgio Morandi never ventured into pure abstraction:
“My belief is that Morandi needed objects of scrutiny, because the act of looking and painting, not the act of painting alone, is the true subject matter of his work. (Siri Hustvedt, Living, Thinking, Looking (New York: Picador, 2012), 242.)
Similarly, my work is always a response to a specific experience of looking. By trying to deny myself those references, I was merely blinding myself in the process.