Christine Hughes interviews painter Ellen E. Rand on the occasion of Rand's recent exhibition at Figureworks, Brooklyn.
Rand comments: "Years ago, when I was at the Met, I saw a Manet painting of a sailor in a boat with one or two women. I like to read some of the information about a painting – when, where, who the artist knew, but the card next to the painting said that the artist painted out the original placement of the rope and put it in a different place because the 'dynamics of the diagonals of the expressions of…' and on and on. I thought, no! He painted it out because he didn’t like the way it looked! I do feel that an awful lot of art now is just an illustration of a thought or an idea, not something that comes from inside."
Pearlstein comments that "teaching was itself a great learning process. One of the artists I fell in love with while I was an art history student was Mondrian. I used the library at the Museum of Modern Art for my research on Picabia and Duchamp and when I needed a break I would go down to the galleries, and in those days they were empty so it was possible to stare at works without interruption. Mondrian was already the God of all layout artists, but as I really got to know his work, it began to vibrate, to do very strange things. It moves, the elements move if you give the work time. All sorts of things happen with the optic nerves, I guess, so lines drift and move around. You blink your eyes and it’s all gone. I tried to teach on that basis. Everything I taught involved some of that lesson I learned from Mondrian, from his picture structure and how the picture structure drifts. The setups I produce in my studio are really theatre designs – maybe that’s what I should be exhibiting."
Rubenstein observes: "The depiction of power, though its presence is immaterial, has been a source of fascination for painters since, well, there has been painting. Michalangelo, David, Rembrandt, Benglis, Golub, Kruger, and Longo come to mind. Schor plays with the relationship of the figure, immense and monolithic, against the ground, delicate and ephemeral. ... Like Picasso, in his last self-portrait (Self-Portrait Facing Death, 1972), Schor gives us a schematic depiction of time at work. The Mangaaka figures which were the catalyst for this group may have had talismatic properties for their creators, but for the contemporary artist, Schor seems to ask, does art still have that power? Schor’s drawings are meditations on time and aging, and on the power of art to transform and transcend the temporal."
Greenwold comments: "I'm a formalist... I still feel like my language is essentially a formalist language, essentially a language of abstraction because my paintings I feel are very much abstractions; they're not narratives from my point of view. They're not telling a story because paintings can't tell stories as far as I'm concerned... figurative paintings in the history of art notwithstanding, I feel paintings is what Bacon said it was: 'a moment trapped.' ... I wouldn't be able to tell you what this painting's about specifically, because it really isn't about anything specifically. It's more about this cacophony of stuff that's meant to be as agitated as I feel, or as complicated."
Fisher comments: "I think one of the most interesting questions in a painting practice is how to be simultaneously of the present in the work and at the same time speak to a well-articulated lineage. This binary is at the core of painting, as it is essential to develop the ability to move fluidly through an ascetic relationship to influence and an immersion with in it... Work that relies on thematic concerns of an era can be limited in its consideration of the universal. Painters such as Morandi have the most revolutionary of paintings as they function outside of their epoch of making. They function on a level that is outside of dichotomy. While polemical modes of argument are useful as a way to amplify distinctions within a range of considerations, a painting is not an opinion on a scale, it is an ineffable investigation which is a result of an engagement with simultaneous phenomena. Abstraction is both a structure and a language and does not negate representation, rather it is at its core."
Dominic Green writes about the exhibition Frank Auerbach, on view at Tate Britain through March 13, 2016. Green concludes: "We build up life’s layers like impasto, and time scrapes back to the ground, just as Auerbach does each morning. Paint may create three-dimensional illusions in two dimensions; it cannot undo or recover the past. The force of Auerbach’s brushwork, the pushing on and cutting back, the loading and filling of the space—all draw our attention to the mystery of paint, its power to create tactile impressions of absent objects... That is the priority and value of all art, and it is why Auerbach, in aspiring to and attaining that expression, is number one. 'If you take a photograph,' he tells [curator Catherine] Lampert, 'it becomes historic five seconds later. But if you do a painting: Franz Hals’ portrait of a woman—he’s yanked her out of the seventeenth century and brought her here, and in a small way he has defeated death.'"
Ray writes: "In the best paintings, like Alphie (2015), Larsen’s descriptive economy feels expansive rather than reductive... Unusual perspectives in Alphie and Punch (2016) reinforce the mood of selective engagement by shifting the viewer’s perceived distance to foreground and background, mirroring the wandering focus of inattention... The warping of space produces a sensation of empathy heightened by distance; the image seems to reach us from this woman’s perspective, as if from the inside out, as she dreams the scene, perhaps including the viewer. This reversal of emphasis has an intuitive logic that recalls Cézanne’s views of Mont Sainte-Victoire, where the distant mountain feels closer and more important to the painter than the ground."
Witkowski writes: "Mernet Larsen maintains a sense of human relationships among her depicted characters. Larsen’s constructed worlds are not measured attempts to categorize or create various types. Her character’s faces speak of individuality and are immersed in every-day activities. Their rigid, architectural shapes suggest a ‘built’ origin, not unlike built environments, but with a consciousness."
Lichtman remarks: "I am ... influenced by cinematography–the way we experience places in films; scanning and focusing over a duration of time. I want to make paintings that are more like cinematographic passages than like still photographs, where the eye can move around and apprehend things slowly... I resist the temptation to plan out a composition before hand or to work from a study. Instead I start by painting something small and specific from direct observation, (a vase of flowers or a leg or the shape of a head) somewhere within the rectangle. From there I begin to imagine what might be to the right, left, above and below that thing: another object, a piece of light on the floor, the dog. It’s as if I was zooming out from a close-up of particular form, slowly revealing what might be in the periphery vision. I can only do this with places I know very well, where I know how light falls and how figures interact with things. But the process is totally arbitrary–if I feel like want a piece of yellow, then I put in a daffodil or a lemon, or a yellow dress I saw in a magazine. Eventually I get enough things down to claim where the depicted image takes place and what is going on... I want the painting to be about the act of looking so I try to start with a focal point of something I’m seeing. Even if I’m working from memory I’m trying to imitate that process of perception where your eyes focus on one thing and then dart around to another object and then meander to focus on something else."
Stevenson writes: "All of Valentine's subjects are presented as slightly disoriented, not quite fitting in the dark space from which they seem to escape or the surface they purport to occupy, unable to fully form and somehow muted by their limbo. Save for the lucky few with genuinely charmed lives, everyone feels that way sometimes. Valentine captures this anti-nirvana reality with skill and panache, depth and compassion."
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.