Blue Dish, oil on canvas, 44 x 48”, 2013
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Having just completed a group of paintings that were shown at the Painting Center, I am now starting a new body of work, which includes some bigger canvases. I am interested in investigating and scaling up some of the formal ideas that emerged in the making of this last group of paintings and am also reloading source materials. In recent works, I have been exploring how the planned and built environment and more spontaneous gestures and improvisational activity inform each other. I am interested in working this interplay both in terms of formal language and as a reference to dynamics in the world, possibly best characterized as the tension between pre-engineered or modeled structures and behaviors and DIY aesthetics. In many ways, I think the paintings are imaging a world that is both being constructed and disassembled by these forces.
Can you describe your working routine?
For me, painting is often a balance of control and discovery as guided by the conceptual framework I just referenced. Whatever the stage of the process, I often come back to this frame of reference as an orientating device. I suppose any routine I do have is dictated by where I am at in the decision making process within a painting or across a whole body of work. On any given day, I try to match my capacity with any number of things I am working on. At the same time I am also looking, at least peripherally, to how a day of decision making may set up a next series of moves. Typically before I leave the studio, I usually make a note of what is on my mind, so that the handoff to the next day or work session is clear. The important thing is knowing the specific nature of the question facing one, and whether to complicate, simplify, or develop the terms in a painting at a given time. There are also times when I start to think about an exit strategy or how to paint myself out of the decision making process in a painting.
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio is attached to where I live and has heat and water. In specific terms, it really has no bearing on my work. Though my studio’s easy access does allow shorter sessions and small insights to accrue. When I am working best, I am aware of very little outside of the work other than what it conjures or invites.
Personal Geographies, oil on canvas, 24 x 22”, 2013
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
In my studio, there is no preordained or mechanistic process I adopt when it comes to preparation for painting. Some of the source materials I do use function like talismans, others more like catalysts and still others operate more as reflective instruments. It is certainly not a linear affair. In general, if I could find what I wanted in the source materials I wouldn’t feel compelled to paint and I would probably just re-present them (the sources) in another manner. That said, my sources, including drawings, objects, and collages, are like little keyholes I look through, offering me a limited but important view of the space I want to move the work into. All along the painting process acts as a filter or amplifier; translating, modifying, and editing numerous qualities that may be in the source material I am referencing or that emerges at various stages.
Clearly, the materiality and performative character of painting and the histories and ideologies that are evoked are also a source of content in the work. In many ways, the paintings are also generative of each other, as I am usually working on a dozen or so paintings at a time when the studio is in full tilt mode. In general, I am wholly incapable of understanding one piece as an entity unto itself, and whereas two canvases creates a kind of binary set-up, a multitude of canvases allows or even compels me to think in permutations and variations.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
Often paintings that have achieved an early resolute character and are not yet satisfactory can be very problematic. In such work, it is as if a certain kind of completion, for instance, as an image, precludes other developments, in say, color or surface from taking place. Such early resolutions can blind me to seeing other developments. In many ways fragments are easier and more engaging to deal with than a painting that has ripened too early but leaves me wanting more. In any case, much of painting for me seems to be an undoing with elegance, or a patching together from the fragments and remnants one inherits, operating akin to Claude Levi-Strauss’s notion of the bricoleur . This concept, which a colleague recently introduced me to, seems to be a precursor to what we broadly refer to today as a DIY approach.
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I work with oil paint and as I referenced earlier I also do some work in drawing and collage. Painting has always been central to my studio activity. To me it is about using the range of properties this material possesses so as to create a series of analogies and representations. While the practice of painting opens associations as an activity unto itself, it also holds a lot of interest for me because of its material presence and how that completely conditions the read of a work. The tension between surface and image and material and representation can create a sort of multiplicity and density that slows experience down.
The drawings and collages, on the other hand, are typically more notational and often made in response to a painting in progress. They usually act as clarifying summations or formative ruminations as a painting moves through different stages. I am also a collector of sorts. It helps me stay vigilant and attentive to the built environment and what may be termed “the discard” around us. Such collecting is a way to bring material culture into the studio, while also enabling me to exercise my ability to find likeness among difference.
Explosion View, oil on canvas, 44 x 48”, 2013
What does the future hold for this work?
I have always found the work me takes me to a place I could not preconceive of. I try to be strategic but not predictive. That said, the work itself will be shown and the subject of lectures at universities and various institutions. The latter can be very instructive, because looking at the work in a rear view mirror you see things very differently than you do while it is being made. One can see it more independent of the obfuscating lens of intentionality.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
While one can drown in painting’s history and its deep pool of references, it is also an amazing resource to draw upon. Painting is also curiously positioned to have an interesting dialogue with the ubiquitous two-dimensional screens that populate our lives. It can function as a high touch alternative to such experiences and is also capable of absorbing and translating some of technology’s influence through a humanities based perspective. While we are in a bit of a solipsistic age, it is also an age of open source invention and indeed an exciting time to be a painter.
Command Tree (Modified), oil on canvas, 44 x 48”, 2013