Shirley Kandea interviews painter Juan Uslé about his work and career. Uslé's works were recently on view in his exhibition Al Clarear at Frith Street Gallery, London.
Towards the end of the interview Kandea asks: "I think painting, unlike other mediums, has a tremendous history that can’t be ignored. The painter always has to work with this history even if it’s about emptying out that history. Would you agree?" Uslé responds: "I understand that your question refers to what I call a voice, or an invitation to a peculiar view—some works have that, and it seems timeless. No matter how many times you might see that work, you always find the thread that you’re never done unraveling. For me, painting’s legitimacy depends on that voice—that prevailing, inexhaustible quality, much more than on its circumstantial use value, technical factors, material conditions, its social or historical context, and those sorts of attributes which are so important to those who need to organize things. For me a pictorial gaze avoids those eschatologies."
Mary Jones interviews painter Amy Feldman whose exhibition Grey Area was recently on view at Sorry We're Closed, Brussels.
In her introduction Jones writes: "With simple and strong contrast, Feldman’s forms activate the ground, dispelling any metaphors of the mechanical. Expressive, letter-like cartoon and carnal shapes drive Feldman’s unique, psychologically charged language. The rigorous simplicity of the work embraces the fundamental elements of painting, a barebones approach of all or nothing, without revisions or second layers."
Asked about figure/ground relationships in her work, Feldman comments that she is "obsessed with figure/ground relationships and negotiating the space between them, the space that flips between something and nothing—an attentive and imprudent flip. When the works get large, a chunk of figure that you could almost hold onto becomes ground, and vice versa. I am interested in highlighting the areas between figure and ground that might be ignored. These are the areas that the drip embodies. The drips are completely accidental, but I see them as integral to the overall image structure."
John Bunker interviews painter Sabine Tress about her work. Sabine Tress: Run Run Painter Run is on view at Appels Gallery, Amsterdam through July 4, 2014.
Tress comments: "I think I am more and more looking for a personalised version of painting. And above all I want my work to reflect a very individual view and complex emotions. I don’t know if my work does that but I am attracted by works that do that, plainly speaking... I’d like to work a lot more on bigger formats. Physically, it’s a challenge. The huge format I worked on recently… I had to get on a chair in order to reach nearer to the top. Small formats can be challenging too as I need to control my actions much more. The bigger formats on the other hand, allow me to ‘slam the paint’ on, I have more freedom to experiment, leave the canvas ‘empty’ on certain areas. Bigger formats allow me to have more of a dialogue with the painting. It’s like a person or a presence standing there. It also feels more like creating a very personal reality, something that stands its ground. I imagine sometimes that if I could paint lots of big formats and that I would then be able to live in this painted environment."
Janet McKenzie interviews painter Joyce Cairns about her work which is on view in the exhibition Beginnings at Tatha Gallery, Fife, Scotland.
Cairns comments: "The first war painting followed my mother’s death; it was about my father because some of the memorabilia of his war experience came to light. My mother had been tormented by the war... The earlier works referred to war in a very loose way, but did not refer to a specific time or place. I had to go on various tours not only to get a sense of where my father had been (especially Tunisia), but also to photograph not only the area but also many of the artefacts recovered and placed in museums... It is my way of making the paintings connect authentically to the past. I cannot do paintings about battles, I was not there, so I am a war tourist and connect to history by removing the artefacts from museums and bringing them back to the site of conflict."
Zachary Keeting and Christopher Joy talk to painter Allison Gildersleeve at her exhibition, Elsewhere at Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York, on view through June 21, 2014.
Gildersleeve comments: "I love pattern and I also love paintings that there is no recognizable subject in it but it feels very figurative. They're just piling up these shapes and yet it feels like it tells a story. Those two things are things I'm always trying to get to happen in my own work... Ideally I'd like to get to that point where it's all my language and my language brings out what I see in whatever it is I paint... so you start to see that kind of energy and fluctuation and the things mutate and change, they fall apart and come together... I want paintings that continually unfold and breathe and happen, and are not fixed."
Betty Wood profiles painter Sean Scully on the occasion of his exhibition Kind of Red at Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, on view through July 12, 2014.
Commenting on completing his five-part painting Kind of Red (2013) in five days, Scully remarks "... if something’s right, it’s right. I don’t believe in corrections. I believe in the truth of doing something, and trying to see over time whether it works – I’m not interested in things being perfect.' This practicality leaves no room for nostalgia either: 'I don’t work with doubt – I make something simple, then I leave it..."
Françoise Gilot shares her memories of traveling with Picasso to meet Matisse.
Gilot remarks: "What drew me to Matisse is his desire for finding the strongest and most simple way of expressing a form or character. And also in terms of... mounting the color to the extreme... The difference between Matisse and Picasso is Picasso was looking at nothing when he was painting, but Matisse always liked to have a model near him - he could touch the hand of the model with his arm... There is an ancedote à propos Matisse and the color black. He decided to go and say hello to Renoir. One of the credos of the impressionists painters is you can't use black any more. So, Matisse is bringing a few paitings to him, and of course, in them black is used as a color. Renoir was rather astonished and said "that is very strange - you have to be a painter because I, myself, could never make a painting with black not receding making a hole."
Maria Calandra interviews painter Erik den Breejen on the occasion of his recent exhibition There's a Riot Goin' On at Freight + Volume, New York.
Den Breejen comments: "I see the paintings as having three equal, interconnected parts: the words, the image, and the color. The color operates as its own language, but it's usually based on some pre-existing lighting situation, and it occurs on the words as it creates them, as they both create the image. It's hard for me to pin down what the most engaging part of the work is for me, but as I'm making them in the moment, I'm most concerned with color. Mixing the colors and playing them off one another feels very musical to me. Instead of using lots of chords, per se, as I did in the past, I'm now using fewer chords, but they're bigger, more complex chords. Listening to Wagner had a lot to do with that. I’m thinking of the color as a key, as it relates to the image, as it relates to the subject. It's very interconnected."
Jennifer Samet interviews painter Mark Greenwold about his work and career.
Greenwold remarks: "Painting need not just be about big yellow expanses of canvas. If Rothko wanted people to cry in front of his paintings, as if they were looking at Auschwitz or Buchenwald, he had to tell them. He is a great painter, but you cannot convey, with pure abstraction, the same kinds of things you can convey with representation. I’m not saying you can’t have sorrow and pity in abstract paintings, but it is a different sorrow and pity, conveyed differently... There is contempt in the art world for craft, and how to make things. We talk about 'de-skilling,' and 'post-studio,' and artists who make nothing, or have assistants making everything for them. The valorization of quickness, spontaneity, and the so-called 'found,' while considering something made over a long time being fussy, overworked, and overly determined, is total bullshit. Writers don’t believe that. Why should visual artists believe that? I’m sure van Eyck didn’t believe that, and Vermeer didn’t believe that. Chardin didn’t believe it, and Ingres didn’t believe it."
Riley comments: “Increasingly I work at a technical distance. For me the work is not physical. It has to be made, of course. Facility is important but it can also be a terrible trap. Many painters who had great facility did nothing else. So I put it aside. I give my hands to someone else. It drove me into digging into myself to find out what it was that I should do, getting a dialogue going between me and what I was doing. Mondrian put it incredibly beautifully: ‘This is how I found this way of working.’ ”
Wullschlager's article also includes an excerpt from Bridget Riley’s collected writings titled The Eye’s Mind (Thames & Hudson).
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.