Still, here. Like Rain.
April 15, 2023 - June 18, 2023
oil on stretched canvas 16'' x 12'' x 7/8''
oil on aluminum honeycomb 9 5/8'' x 6 5/8'' x 3/8''
oil on aluminum honeycomb 9 1/2'' x 6 1/2'' x 3/8''
oil on stretched canvas 16'' x 12'' x 7/8''
"Everything seems like a dream to me.
But it's not, he said, reality is what's unbelievable.
His voice was that of just a man.
To be like rain, without gratitude or ingradtitude"
Sentences out of order and misremembered,
From the novel, An Apprenticeship or the Book of Pleasures by Clarisse Lispector
I'm trying to remember when I first started weaving paint—it was a long time ago and on a very small scale. I was in a studio and I squeezed paint from a tube directly onto the wall. I made a few verticals and they stayed then a few horizontals and they stayed, too. I left it on the wall. Later, I played with it and found that I could make it go over and under. I liked the direct experience, the concentrated attention, and the strangeness of something doing something it wasn't supposed to do, and that it appeared to be one thing but wasn't.
Fast forward to a few years later, I found a beautiful rough looking linen imported from Russia at the legendary and now defunct art store, New York Central. The weave was a dark purple-ish brown on one side, and pre-primed Dentist office white on the other. It looked almost handwoven with lots of knots and irregularities in the weave. It was an indecipherable braille-like language and curiously compelling. I stretched the canvas unprimed side facing out, and left it for a long time. There was nothing I could do to make it better, but out of an inability to leave it alone, I returned to my paint-weaving technique from a few years before.
When I am weaving, I am often aware of traditional Chinese and Japanese aesthetics. In certain Chinese thought blandness is a quality that is everywhere and underrated and beautiful—full of potential and withdrawal. The Japanese aesthetic I most often keep in mind is a remembering (or misremembering) of an essay I read on colors in the Noh theater. They're desaturated "kill colors" with the idea that withdrawal from the phenomenal world and desaturation are closer to the spirit realm. This aesthetic, has greatly influenced my approach to using an unlikely material, perhaps an interest in "kill colors" as intrinsic to the process.
My approach is very stripped down and most of the materials are recycled or abandoned. The aluminum supports are light and portable and were discards from another artist's project. If I must paint, the work must be portable and light. I take care of things for a living and there is a great deal of joy one can experience around beautiful objects. They can also be a burden. I want to lessen that burden, and in that way, scale is an important consideration. I use oil paint out of the tube, drill bits, and a support that is sometimes canvas and sometimes what's nearby. I manipulate the paint during various times of its drying process, using wires and sharpened sticks, and sometimes a paintbrush. I've used syringes, too, but it's very hard to push paint through a syringe.
The laying down of strands of paint is a slow and concentrated process. After many passes not determined in advance, the work often appears tangible and tactile but also illusionistic. It often looks like cloth. The basic conditions of painting are there, color, light and space, but in an indirect way. The experience of the process can be sensual... I can feel the paint coming out of the tube and touching the support. The layering takes time and time is an element foregrounded in this process. Strand by strand, marking time, but it doesn't feel boring or lost. I've admire the Navajo weavers, and their sophisticated "lazy line" technique. I think this too, has been an influence to my weaving.
When my concentration drifts, I let it, and eventually I return to breathe and in that way the activity is very much like meditation. Withdrawal is a key component here. I'm not very attracted to images these days, feeling sensitive and overly saturated by our image and information infused world. I like the breath of meditation and the feel of laying down the paint strand by strand. The economy and simplicity of the materials is a plu... oil, cloth, wood, metal. The process grounds me.
I like ambiguity in painting, but I don't think these works are very ambiguous. They're not directly referential to anything, except maybe ancient Egyptian burial linens, both whole cloth and fragments which I have looked at and admired for many years. They are mysteriously beautiful and I can't help but think that part of that beauty is the anonymous touch of the weavers who made them.
I'm not looking for a signature style, but the process grounds me. There are many artists I'm indebted to, too many to mention, but one that comes to mind is Agnes Martin, though I find her Untroubled Mind approach nearly impossible to achieve. The Tuttles, Richard and Martha, I often recall for their economy of materials and directness of application, and their approach to textiles as a language. And also, Anni Albers and Sheila Hicks, for the same reason and the non grasping elements of being around their work. Painting and weaving and drawing with the materials found in this world to transcend or get us on to the next.
As for inspiration in the phenomenal world, there are a few but very indirect. I make a lot of forays to Rockaway with my wife Elizabeth, and sometimes my daughter Sally. We especially like it in the off season. Sometimes we are the only ones on the beach with our dog Lola. I look at the muted colors of winter weeds and beach grass, and the sun-bleached, washed-out buildings. The sea up close is an opaque blue green, and further out often a warm grey. When it hits the shore and before it retreats it is nearly metallic. The water, earth and sky briefly meet there, the water reflecting the sky as it lays on the sand. Ephemeral souvenirs. Like rain.