Monday, April 14, 2014

STEPHEN MAINE

HP13-0306, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24 ", 2013
 
 
 

What are you working on in your studio right now?
 
I usually have several paintings in progress, as I do now. These range in size from 20 by 16 inches to ten by eight feet. It takes a long time for me to finish a painting, even though I don’t spend a lot of time physically working it. It has to sit around for a while at various junctures in its fabrication. Not much material is deposited on the painting’s surface, but there is a lot of preparation and forethought. For example, I deliberate for a long time over color choices. To clarify my position regarding color, I have in recent years stripped it way back to a binary palette; the newest work is only slightly more diversified chromatically. In any case my color is most interesting when I arrive at it slowly.
 
I am completely beguiled by the book form as a delivery mechanism for work on paper.  Actually I have gone a little book-crazy since last summer, and I have ten or twelve books in the studio that, like the paintings, are in various states of completion. These are unique, hand-made objects; they are essentially sculpture with pages. I work on them at a very different pace than I do the paintings—manically—and usually when I am frustrated by the glacial slowness of the paintings. Working on books, it quickly became clear to me that the space of the page is fundamentally different from other manifestations of pictorial space. It is fascinating to me that I have made boring drawings into exciting pages simply by folding them in half. I have made dozens of books combining new work on paper, repurposed older work, technical experiments and found printed material. At 120 pages, including gatefolds and overlays, Book #14-0103 is to date the largest of these.


 
 
 
Book 14-0103 in progress


Book 14-0107 details
 
 
 
 
 

Can you describe your working routine?
 
When I was younger, I used to love to work late into the night. On rare occasions I still work until around midnight, but doing so is no longer a productive approach in the long term. It’s just not sustainable. Evidently I am more verbally focused in the morning and visually focused in the afternoon; focus of any kind tapers off as the light fades. So to the extent that my teaching schedule and other commitments allow, I try to arrange things so I can write in the morning and go to the studio after lunch.
 
Despite its location in a building on a busy commercial thoroughfare, my studio is relatively quiet. I used to listen to music when I work, but that too has changed. Several years ago I recognized madly crescendo-ing electric guitars as something of a distraction from the task at hand, and I retired my CDs. Now I sometimes talk to myself, which is weird, I know—but I gather that doing so clarifies my focus.
 
After a few hours in the studio my thoughts turn to dinner, so I wrap up whatever it is I’m doing and begin to consider menu options for the evening meal. I like to cook for my wife, Gelah, who is an enthusiastic, discerning audience for my efforts in the kitchen. It’s nice to know that, at the end of the day, one will have an enthusiastic, discerning audience.

 
 

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

 
The studio building is a massive three-story brick structure on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn. The second floor, where Gelah and I have studios, has a fairly high ceiling, not much natural light, and a concrete floor incised with a precise 12-inch grid. The grid is useful for squaring up stretchers. Otherwise the floor is pretty crappy, so I am free from worry about making a mess. When we took it, the space was raw but we put up plywood and drywall, so it feels acceptably white-cubish. The largest unbroken wall is about thirty-five feet long and 14 feet high—useful even when I’m not working large, because a small painting on such an expanse of white needs to hold itself, needs to really broadcast visually. I once knew a painter who made it a practice to test each new painting by hanging it alongside a little Matisse he owned. I don’t need a Matisse. My big wall is enough.

 
 
 
 


 





Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.

I paint on canvas that is stretched over a firm but flexible panel made of wood and cardboard. I have several such panels, in standardized sizes—20 x 16, 25 x 20, 30 x 24, 36 x 30, 50 x 40, 60 x 48, 90 x 72 and 120 x 96 inches. I do like that 5:4 ratio. Painting with these panels backing the canvas gives me the resistance I need to the pressure of the stamping process. Afterward, I transfer the finished painting to conventional stretchers exactly the same size as the panel, so the edges and corners fit nicely.

I put on the first color—usually a fairly saturated glaze—using a big brush, a roller or a spray gun. I mull that over for a few days, deciding what to do next. That second application is usually one color but sometimes more; it is applied all at once, in a monotype fashion. I use a piece of plastic, plywood, Styrofoam or something similar, roughly the same size as the canvas. There is a particular product that gives me the pseudo-halftone mark when I print with it. Then I take a few days or weeks to decide whether to stop, continue or give up on the painting altogether.

I do not intentionally prolong the process out of some idea about performativity, or to enact a ritual. In fact I loathe ritual. The pictorial result is primary. But each painting presents the evidence of a series of decisions that come about in its proximity and coinciding, at certain crucial moments, with its surface. The monoprint mark is the residue of a clumsy, imprecise operation. That imprint is all that remains of a protracted and complex action otherwise lost to time. It is futile to try to foresee this outcome. To the extent that I suspend control over the process, the result is surprising. I insist on being surprised.

The studio-bound business of mixing colors, selecting and arranging tools and so on is preparation for the moment of contact between wet paint and substrate. One or two such moments usually suffice for a painting. Maybe three. The technical means of making needs to become incidental, so the density and the weight reside in the painting itself, where the energy is focused in a few square feet. That is what I like most about painting: the energy is focused.



 
 

in progress
 
 
 

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

 
With regard to resolving paintings, I try not to sweat it too much. If I struggle with a painting, we both lose. So lately I have embraced the idea of the “tactical retreat,” meaning that I discard a lot of unfinished work before it sucks up too much time and energy. Because, you know, some paintings are just doomed. Generally speaking, I believe the trash can is a tragically under-utilized studio tool.

 

 
 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

 
I get what I need from acrylic paint: fluidity, saturated color, fast drying time. The material of the substrate has been more of an issue. For a few years I worked on panels of various kinds, including plywood, mdf, prefabricated gesso boards and reinforced paperboards. Despite taking a reasonable level of care in my craftsmanship, I nevertheless have seen these panels warp or bow in a number of instances. This dimensional instability is heartbreaking because the only remedy is to cradle the board ever more heavily, which makes the object bulky and defeats one of primary reasons to paint on a panel in the first place. It is no accident that stretched canvas is the default substrate for painting, and to it I have lately returned. 
 
To avoid the expressionistic associations of the brushstroke, I use tools such as paint rollers and spray guns to apply color, as well as the monoprint procedure described above. One of those fabulous old-school atelier skills is laying down a smooth, unmodulated wash of paint with a soft brush. I wish I could do that, but either I’m doing it wrong or they don’t make brushes like that any more.
 
Whereas the paintings possess a certain restraint and refinement, the books I make provide a place for technical (chromatic, procedural, material) experimentation and play. There, I discard little, and the editing process is mainly about the sequencing of pages. I work with found imagery, accidents, scraps, jokes, etc., and reserve the paintings for more developed pictorial strategies. The relationship between the two is complex and vital. A friend says that my books “establish the conditions of spectatorship” for my paintings, and I agree with her.
 

 
 
 
 

HP13-0909 (detail)
 
 
 
 

What does the future hold for this work?
 
I expect to further diversify my two-color, binary palette, particularly in larger paintings. Paintings in the eight-by-ten-feet range would seem to call for a greater chromatic range. The indirect, monoprint type of application, in which paint is transferred to the canvas mechanically with a kind of stamping or pressing method, certainly feels like it’s here to stay in my work. I like the unpredictability of it—the lack of control—and that the materiality of the paint becomes primary to the process. I’m interested in the use of machines in painting, for example the Gutai group in postwar Japan, and also some of the crazy shit Richard Jackson does to get paint on canvas. I’m looking to embrace more chaos, more indeterminacy, more nebulousness within the procedural paradigm of the imprint.
 
Also, I will make many more books.
 
 
 
 

"ever evolving index of most favored colors" (April 2014)
 

 






Thursday, April 10, 2014

AMY PLEASANT

Cityscape, oil on canvas, 72 x 60
 
 
 


What are you working on in your studio right now?

I have just come off my first solo exhibition at whitespace gallery in Atlanta, GA.  It included paintings, drawings and clay objects.  This was the first time for me to show sculptures and I was really excited about it.  So there was a good deal of post-show follow-up and "cleansing the studio".  I am now working on new paintings, drawings and a few new objects.  

 

Can you describe your working routine?

My routine is always centered around drawing with ink and brush.  All the work comes out of the small daily drawings.  So I usually start by making several small works on paper and then work on larger paper pieces and the paintings.  It always depends though.  Sometimes it is clay work or monotypes etc...





 
 
 
 
 

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
 
My studio is a ground floor space on a busy street in downtown Birmingham.  I am very private so my windows are frosted but I still get great light.  No one really knows what goes on inside that space and I like that. My home studio is very different.  I am a gardener (I don't mean vegetables), so my backyard is my "other studio".  When I work there I love to have the doors open, to hear the birds, and see the space that I have created there over the years.  It feels like an extension of my inside practice.  It is an activity that is quite precious to me.





Head VII
 
 
 

 

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
 
The process as I stated above is that all the work comes from small ink on paper drawings that I make.  I explore an image over and over until I find how it works best.  Sometimes that is all it needs to be and sometimes I have to take it to a large work, painting or paper or clay most recently.  It is a process of finding an image through repetition.  I love the xerox machine so I take my small works and copy them again and again, blowing them up, shrinking them down, cropping them, collaging and copying again.  The paintings go through a much longer process of painting and erasing and I usually work on a few at one time at different stages of completion.  




 

Untitled, On the Ground Below, ink on paper, 24 x 22
 

Untitled, Two Figures with Shadows
24 x 22, ink and monotype on paper
 
 
 
 
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
 
I make things too hard on myself.  Making things harder than they need to be. 
 
 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
 
I do like to experiment.  I just recently made my first clay pieces which was thrilling and now working on some new works with wood/clay.  
 
 
What does the future hold for this work?
 
In the long run I have no idea.  I never know what life it will live once I make it. But in the short term, I will have work in a group show, Roving Room, co-curated by Kelly Kaczynski and Cori Williams, that will be installed in the historic Habersham Mills May16th-July 31st and then I will be working towards my next solo show in NYC at Jeff Bailey Gallery. 
 
 
 
Sunshine on my Face, oil on canvas, 24 x 18
 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

JON PILKINGTON

Adorn-ament, oil & acrylic on linen, 120 x 90cm, 2014
 
 
 
 
What are you working on in your studio right now?

A lot of small paintings (mainly 42x32cm) some slightly larger and others smaller. This series of paintings focus on amplifications and simplifications, cropping's that are honed in on. Working through the accidental sections of previous works that have almost organically arrived and purely focusing on a specific section or arrangement of form or motif, creating a highly contrived painterly language, often playing with the surface and tactility of paint.  Seductive and sickly arrangements of colour reference a clarity and confidence in the body of work. Works are executed fairly quickly but often sit in the studio for a long time until they are realised. Most of the paintings that I am working on are executed on raw canvas or linen.
 


Can you describe your working routine?
 
I usually work most afternoons and evenings. Working often starts with very quick drawings, a lot of playing cutting and pasting, erasing and restarting. Initially getting into the studio, I like to start fairly quickly often changing quite a few works at once, making quick decisions that require a thoughtful response. Over the session a lot of sitting and looking happens and i start to open up the works dissect them, it’s at this point I know what the paintings should begin to look like or what they need to be doing, although some take a lot longer to start to work than others. I seem to like to take the paintings to a dirty, mucky stage almost as if the white primed or unprimed canvas is too easy of a place to start. Most studio days are filled with sitting, looking, thinking, tea drinking and Paul Simon.
 
 
 
 

 




Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?

My studio space is quite small but has nice light as the days are getting longer. The work I am making has definitely got smaller but I am not sure this has anything to do with the space. Its almost as if each painting is given as much attention as each other, they all share the same wall. I am in the stage of creating a body of work that arrives at the same time rather than sequentially, so in this sense it is important to see the work in unity as constant informants or self referential parameters. I think being in a space that is comfortable and manageable helps the work too, I feel relaxed in the space in which I work so I guess that has a positive effect on production.

 
 
Yes Boy & Fuzz G in the studio
 
 
 
 
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
 
Works begin with drawings, some very quick drawings other more detailed. I find it hard to paint directly onto primed canvas so i like to pay with the surface, leaving sections raw, others primed with oil based primer other bits with rabbit skin glue etc. So the formula changes painting by painting all depending on what i am trying to find or offer. I like to start by being slightly ruthless with the canvas, taking the work right to the death before redeeming it. I will often work onto the canvas flat on the floor until the visual becomes apparent and the surface is doing what I want it to be doing. It’s at that stage that the painting makes it on to the wall where I can see it in relation to the others, I can see what it is lacking or what it is bringing to the set up. It is at this point that i really start to think about the way it is painted, colour form etc but it already has a history a certain painterly value before it makes the wall.
 
 
 




drawings
 
 
 
 
 
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
 
The constant decision between pure abstraction and figuration always troubles me, teetering on the edge between is a fine line and when things become too figurative it becomes difficult. I am having trouble with a couple of paintings but i feel the hard labour over a work is sometimes good, sometimes an image or work can arrive to easily.
 
 
 
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
 
I like to work through self referential parameters such as which materials i will use, the methods of application etc. Compositions are often worked through drawings, but the method of pure replication does not satisfy me, something has to change or something has to give. Working on this series of paintings is slightly different, there is a set process there is a way i approach the work it becomes slightly less erratic more methodic, but usually it is the finding things (when things go a bit wrong) that it becomes a little more exciting in the end.

 
 

 
Club Trop, 150x120cm 2013 oil,
acrylic and beeswax on canvas
 
 
 


What does the future hold for this work?
 
I don’t know, i think there is always an urge to take the work large... to over exaggerate the work. But at this time I like the thought of the work being quite accessible, at the moment it has a very domestic layout, very manageable. I'd like to see the work being exhibited to see how it operates with space and how the works sit when they are separated and become singular objects. I am curating a show in Manchester in April so this could be a good time to try out some of the works. Most of the works are working towards a much larger show in Leipzig later in the year.




Untitled (Leaf), oil, acrylic
& lacquer on canvas, 38 x 28, 2014