I’m not quite sure what to make of these at this point. Is it possible that this work has some essential character that cannot be meaningfully conveyed in digital reproduction? As soon as I ask the question, I second-guess my whole line of thinking; these are after all clear and declarative, so what’s not likely to make it into digi-translation? On the other hand, does a late-Matisse paper piece reveal its secrets in any reproduced form? I’m not necessarily equating these with H.M., but have to wonder about how color, surface, shape might operate with no mediation.
A couple of them also made me think of Howard Hodgkin. If I were to guess about the surface: jarringly thin at times, occasionally course/disjunct at other times, and, at others still, quite convincingly unified.
I’m also having a hard time knowing what I make of these. I wanna zero in on one thing from Matt Choberka’s comment above: that these paintings are clear and declarative. I wonder how many people react automatically with suspicion to clear-and-declarative in art?
(That would be a question I would invite other readers here to answer.)
I find it hard, even in retrospect, to qualify my reaction to anything clear and declarative.
Colors and shapes are bold, mostly abstract, often pretty. Narratives/readings/motifs are elusive, or maybe personal to the point of being BYO–either way, the more concrete aspect of the work is sensory. Cool, unburdened, and pleasing visually. Points toward the modernist French ‘decorative,’ (Matisse, Dufy) and seems to embrace it and update it a little–I notice a couple of those wonky splashes you might also see in Schutz or Sall–more than question it.
For someone looking for ‘meaning,’ they may not be too declarative. But for someone just looking at something on the wall, they’re kinda saying ‘here we are!’
The possible suspicioning above, if my mind-reader’s working (and it may well not be), may be rooted in our post-modernist-French (not to be confused with postmodernist French) definition of ‘decorative.’ (Sorry for the pun)
My take on these being clear and declarative is: wide brushstrokes, high chromatic contrast in a primary and secondary color range, little or no gradation, lots of unworked negative areas, rare occurrence of figure/ground reversal or push/pull spatial relationships. As opposed to a Morandi or Rothko where simple shapes turn out to be incredibly complicated where ever a light meets a dark tone, or between different more and less intense chromatic grays.
Being simple and declarative is not a bad thing by any means. Picasso, Matisse, Dufy—simple and declarative. Sam related Justice’s paintings to Howard Hodgkin, and I see that for some of them, but the painter I see even more resonance with is Patrick Heron. I remember being outright dismissive of Heron’s work when I first came across his work in Modern Painters back in the mid-90s. Based largely on those paintings’ simple clarity and declarative-ness. I finally around on them, 1. based on his writings and 2. catching images of the paintings out of the corner of my eye, flipping through Modern Painters and the Heron monograph and getting a flash of a pretty exciting color vibration I was totally missing looking straight at the images.
I’ve since learned to allow myself the right to suspicion, but not dismiss such work out of hand. It is hard to reflect on what makes simple painting good painting any further than just my initial intuitive and highly subjective response.
The interview with Justice really helps me out a lot.