Periodically, we hear complaints (or alternatively, sighs of gratitude) from one quarter or another that painting is dead; or sometimes more specifically, that abstract painting is dead. At this point it’s far more likely the planet will die before abstract painting. Not exactly the cheeriest thought – but I get it. Today, as we face hard realities pitched somewhere between the Alien and Scary Movie franchises, artists appear once again to be veering in an abstract direction. The difference is a certain material specificity that connects with motive, while both deconstructing or dissolving that materiality and transposing or reconfiguring it into something entirely different – not a new ‘reality’ exactly, but a device suggesting something about one reality and another yet to be determined. I’m not sure Cindy Bernard would even characterize this work as abstraction – its constituent parts might be more easily categorized as ‘pattern and decoration’ – but in their various fragmentations, juxtapositions, reconfigurations, and placement, they construct a fresh syntax of relationships, correspondences, and color harmonics. That we ‘read’ certain elements as flowers, symbols, patterns, etc., only augments the power of their abstraction. –– Ezra Jean Black, Artillery, June 7, 2017
With my recent project Vinland (2012 – ongoing) I decided to make a radical change in my process, allowing ideas to develop organically while incorporating more chance and randomness into the work. In February 2016, I was awarded a 30 day residency at the MacDowell artist colony in the woods of New Hampshire and decided to further challenge myself by learning a new medium. I ordered a set of watercolors and had them sent directly to MacDowell.
The day before I left for MacDowell, I impulsively photographed a crazy quilt purchased from a great aunt in The Beaches, Newfoundland. When I arrived, I loaded the quilt shots onto my laptop, started “cutting” the fabric panels into separate images using Photoshop and printing them using an old black and white printer. The limitation of black and white printing emphasized the shapes, which were irregular, having been cut from scraps by my aunt to fill the rectangle of the quilt.
I quickly realized that the black and white prints made great tracing templates for paintings and decided to make one painting for each of the 123 panels of the quilt. 33 panels were completed during my MacDowell residency, 90 were painted after my return and completed Labor Day weekend, 2016.
Taking the work a step further and wanting to better honor the painterly juxtapositions of the original quilt, I began rendering adjacent 3-7 panel blocks at 1:1 scale (I refer to these as “adjacent panel paitings”). Even at 1:1, some patterns remained impossible to paint, so I continued to render those as gray monochromes and started a third series where these tiny patterns are enlarged to a workable scale: All The Panels I Couldn’t Paint. Because the patterns are blown up 6-12 times, these paintings incorporate printed fabrics falling out of register and digital distortion from the enlarged photographs used for tracing.
(Clicking on one image opens up all, move through them using the arrow keys)