MW Capacity is pleased to present Tenses of Landscape, an invitational group exhibition of contemporary landscape paintings. The exhibition is on view from October 1 – November 4, 2012, in the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center Gallery, in Fayetteville, AR. Throughout October, MW Capacity will post a series of artist interviews and other statements, as well as images of works featured in Tenses of Landscape. We sent the participating artists a list of general questions and prompts. Some replied, some replied in-depth, some chose not to. Today’s post includes a few responses from the prompts, as well as some relevant links to other online content.
MICHAEL KAREKEN: I rely on photography as my primary source material. So while my images aren’t invented or imagined, I do work away from the motif or subject matter in my studio. I do this partly for practical reasons (the places I paint are dangerous, and they are constantly changing), but primarily I do it for creative reasons. I have found that having physical and psychological distance from my subject allows me to be freer, more creative and imaginative in my work.
My current scrap and recycling work — which touches on broad issues of waste, consumerism, and environmental degradation – grew out of my interest in a paper recycling plant that is located next door to my studio in St. Paul, Minnesota. On days when I was having trouble painting, I looked out my window and watched the workers sort and process the scrap paper and cardboard that was dumped in the yard of the facility. Over time I became fascinated by the place and felt compelled to make some work in response. My initial paintings were simply an attempt to understand and document this one particular place. The experience of making that work led me to explore and paint other related sites around the Twin Cities and eventually grew into a body of work that I think makes a larger statement. But for me that larger statement grows out of an intense involvement with particular places.
Claire Sherman will visit the University of Arkansas to deliver a lecture on Thursday, October 11. A reception in the Fine Arts Center Gallery will be held at 5:30; the lecture is at 7pm. Claire did an interview for MWC a few years ago, linked here. Shown above: Cave and Trees, 2011, oil on canvas, 96×78″
More of Claire’s work here.
MARGARET NOEL: I recently started working almost exclusively in wax and collage because it introduces an element of chance and unpredictability into my work. When I apply a heat gun to fuse the layers together, the paint blooms: some pigments come to the surface and others sink. Wax has a way of running outside the borders I set for it, which feels like an apt metaphor for the act of painting itself. I’ll set out to paint for a few hours, and then realize that I’ve been in the studio for 10.
I want my paintings to capture the sensation of lost memory, the feeling of trying to pin down a vague or eroded memory of a place, or smell, or a particular type of light. I usually don’t include specific, recognizable landmarks or identifying signs because I want the sense of familiarity to carry an undertone of doubt. Is this landscape the same as the one I know, or just similar?
Authenticity, capturing something that feels real, is very important in my painting. But in order to capture the essence of a landscape, I usually find it necessary to distort and alter what I see.
I always begin by drawing in the landscape from direct observation. These drawings are as accurate and precise as time will allow. If I only have 20 minutes, the drawing will be more generalized. If I have more time, the drawing tightens and becomes more specific. I then use this initial drawing to develop an encaustic painting in the studio. Working from the drawing rather than en plein air gives me a step of remove and distance from reality. I feel no sense of responsibility to follow the drawing exactly, instead I use it as a general reference that can be either simplified or expanded at will. Working from a monochromatic drawing lets me invent color based solely on value.
Half my week is spent in Brooklyn and half in Pennsylvania, where I teach drawing, so I spend a significant amount of time on the road. The only constants are my car, the sense of limbo, and the interstate itself, which connects the two halves of my life. Living in flux gives me a heightened awareness of the importance of location. In my work I try to balance my conflicting desire to pin down and understand the nuances of a particular place against the desire to draw parallels by highlighting the recurring forms and similarities. As I translate the shapes from observation to drawing to collage to painting, what is lost in accuracy is gained in authenticity. The image becomes a blurred remembrance of a landscape rather than a precise rendering.
Two artists that I find myself thinking about a lot as I paint are Diebenkorn and Vuillard. They represent two opposing impulses in my work. As I start to construct my encaustic paintings, the first layer is composed of collage ironed onto a waxed surface. The process of fitting the collage pieces together reminds me of how Diebenkorn organized pictoral space. His paintings answer my need for tight boundaries, clear sharp edges, compressed space, vibrant color, and lush surfaces. Once I lay down the first layer of collage and move into the overlapping layer of pigmented wax, my mind shifts towards Vuillard’s small oil paintings on cardboard. Vuillard speaks more to the fluidity of perception. Like Diebenkorn, reality is suggested rather than mimicked, and like Diebenkorn, his spaces are tightly organized and compressed, but unlike Diebenkorn, Vuillard’s shapes and patterns run and flow together rather than adhering to tight boundaries and sharp edges.
More of Margaret’s work here. Shown above: Concrete, 2012, 10 x 14″, encaustic and collage on panel
MARK LEWIS: Most of my work is painting/drawing/ collaging from perception. However, I do enjoy working from a blank canvas on a fairly regular basis. The paintings are inspired by the perceptual work but are more or less street fiction paintings.
I’m interested in combining specific information at particular view returning to the same view over several weeks – or sometimes months. I do make quicker studies – usually skies – that seem to be about a specific moment or day. I depend more on sensation than memory.
[Regarding the sense of an immediate artistic community, ] I’m teaching – so most of my interaction is with students and visiting artists. I also try to travel a little every year just to see more galleries, museums, etc. In many ways I don’t mind being a bit isolated even though isolation won’t help your career. I was fortunate to be around so many good painters as a student. They affected me in so many ways. I’ll list a few: Dean Bloodgood, Wilbur Niewald, Stanley Lewis, Ruth Miller, Andrew Forge, Jake Berthot, Gretna Campbell, Louie Finklestein, Bernie Chaet and Rackstraw Downes.
More of Mark’s work here. Shown above: Peoria Ave. #3, 2009, 59×51″