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 (the prompts themselves are excised, because most answers tend to stand on their own).
ALSO: Emily Gherard will be deliver a lecture on her work on Thursday, October 25, at 7pm in room 213 of the Fine Arts Center, on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. Read on for Emily’s responses.
AND: Big thanks to Brett Baker of Painters’ Table for his coverage of the exhibition!
I would hope that people understand our connection to the landscape. We have evolved right along with every other single-celled organism, palm tree, narwhal, and topsoil ecosystem on the planet. Our culture, religion, and politics have all been shaped, to some extent, by our earliest surroundings. From an evolutionary standpoint, the environment shapes a people’s psychology, and thus their eventual myths, like religious myths. So the earth/environment/landscape creates and shapes the culture from the beginning.
More of Ricky’s work at rickyallman.com
I hang out and discuss art with artistically inclined people more often than with full-out artists. Some are writers, musicians, hobbyists, or artisans. I also hang out with a lot of adventurous people. They always are excited about experiencing the world as it is, rather than trying to be a part of a scene or discussing themselves. I like that. I think if I weren’t an artist, I would be a professional adventurer, like a mountain climber or scuba diving instructor.
I tour on my bicycle a lot. While riding through Galena, IL, to pick up my broken car in Stockton, IL, my friend and I came across all these interesting structures, roads, and hills. If you take the back roads, there are these kooky dying small towns, landscapes, animals (domestic and wild), folk art that the creator doesn’t think is art, and small businesses. I’ve always liked regionalism to a certain degree. So I’d say the Midwest isn’t the same—just on the interstate. And if it seems all the same to a person, well, that person really doesn’t know how to explore and look at the world.
I really enjoy looking and reading about artists from the Northern Renaissance, like Lucas Cranach. I think it must have been a very imaginative and adventurous time. They took so many risks. And the lesser-known artists have this bizarre quality in their work. It was a dangerous time to be alive but it must have felt exciting. Not only were they exploring new worlds, but also the ancient past.
More of Jenn Wilson’s work here.
I use the landscape, images of rocks, walls and space, to address ideas and themes about one’s relationship to the world around them. I try to capture the feeling that the space is both defining the forms and destroying them. The way a viewer typically moves though a visual space within a landscape painting is a devise I can use to draw them into the painting. By working from my imagination, the forms and space can be whatever I need them to be. A rock can be any shape I want, while still feeling specific.
I recently heard an interview with a writer who said that it is not the over arching themes and plots that make a book or keep a writer writing but the love of words and sentences. That made sense to me. For me, the paintings have to be made bit by bit, choice by choice. Mix a color. Try it, change the value, adjust the shape, push the materials around until they feel correct. This type of figuring things out means lots of small specific choices made over a few months. So my “big ideas” change or get lost and replaced.
[It’s hard to remember] that a painting goes through many stages of uncertainty, ugliness and sometimes triteness before it is complete. I find when painting I constantly need to take “a leap of faith.” There is the hope that the resulting painting is more than the sum of its parts. A hope that through the act of making the ideas become bigger and better than the simple ones I can think of.
[I enjoy] the moments when I am working with the materials and come up with something new to do–a task or process to try. These moments only last a few hours but they contain the exhilaration of frenzied making–while much of my painting process is slow and reflective. Also, the point in a painting when the daily things around me relate or remind me of my work–where everything thing seems like it can be food for the work–are moments, and always exciting and surprising.
When a painting is starting to solidify and I am excited about it–I become “hungry” and start to actively search for specific things to feed the painting with. As I move around the world I try to remember my paintings and how I can use what is around me: a particular light, a color combination, a feeling or mood. In front of my paintings, I try to remember little the things that I observed.
In this way, my work is directly influenced by the landscape around me. I am a northwest painter. For many years I was trying capture the dry, harsh feeling of eastern Washington. The landscape there is expansive and beautiful from a distance and rugged and harsh as you walk through it. I wanted the feeling of trekking through the land. The overwhelmed feeling of insignificance one feels when in the west coast landscape. Currently my work is influenced by landscape of western Washington–wet, gray and just as looming. I have been going to the Olympic Peninsula, 4 hours west of Seattle, for 16 years. It’s a place that holds deep significance for me. I go there to recharge. After many years of visiting there regularly, I still get the excited feeling of anticipation when I get on the ferry and head out there. In painting, artists talk a lot about the specificity of place; as a location, time and intellectual space. Every time I get off the Edmonds/ Kingston ferry and begin the long drive out to the Olympic coast, through the dark rain forests, through the shocking areas of clear-cut forests, I think, “This is my place.”
I personally really like to hear what people have to say about their paintings—not always for the most generous-spirited reasons. But I do feel there is often something lost when an artist speaks too openly about their work and working process—both for the audience and the artist. I tend to speak to too specifically about my work, like a teacher that explains a lesson to death and leaves no room for the student’s own imagination. I don’t hold back. I have found, in the past, that this empties the work for me and it is hard for me to move forward with the same work after I have spoken about it too clearly. I am trying to learn how to talk about my work while keeping something for myself.
More of Emily Gherard’s work here.
I’m in the Austin, TX, area and there is actually a disappointing amount of ‘sameness’ here. Reacting against that sameness has become essential to my work. Really reacting against sameness has been a part of my work since before I moved to Texas. I find the unique things (older buildings, trees, alleys/garbage) much more valuable than the things that seem to be increasingly built to replace them. Those old buildings, alleys etc. remind me a lot of painting itself; often with handmade buildings (frame houses etc.) you see the evidence of a single person, an individual, at work. I often think of my paintings as a celebration of those unique things, a way to hold on to them since they seem to be disappearing.
My approach (percentage-wise, observation vs. invention) is about 25/75. I use personal photos as a way to keep things specific in my paintings, keep them kind of concrete (that’s the 25%). That’s usually just a starting point however. As I work on a painting, my imagination, memories of the place being painted and the things that are happening in the painting right before me guide me more than the original source image. Sometimes that can be a subtle thing; changing the palette, adding or subtracting trees, buildings or people. Sometimes that can be very drastic, as in the Night’s Progress painting. Imagination is essential to my work as I try to make paintings that are expressive of my feelings while at the same time having kind of a believability about them.
My actual physical experience with the landscape varies a lot throughout my life. Growing up in western Pennsylvania really formed the way I look at the landscape, the way I project my feelings onto it. In Pennsylvania I had a lot of actual experience with the landscape, with nature firsthand. In Chicago, I began by painting what was around me, but I focused on the things that I wanted to see and left out the things that I didn’t want to see. The more I painted though, the more and more I was drawn to experiences I had had with places in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. The paintings of those subjects were far more rich to me than the paintings of Chicago. Here in Texas, I’ve noticed the same pattern develop. I initially began painting what surrounded me, and have now become more interested in painting Pennsylvania. So, it seems that an initial connection to landscape is important for me, but a certain amount of disconnection is just as important. If I paint what I’m surrounded by, it’s too easy for me to fall into making a straightforward, representational painting. I’m not interested in that. Some distance helps me see interesting relationships or feel free to follow my own route in various other ways through the painting.
Leaving Chicago was kind of a passive aggressive way of isolating myself from a community that I was a part of. Actually I thought living in an area that I had been painting from afar would help my work. I figured that that was more important than having a community. However, not having that community has made me really miss it. [Even] when I do (or did) have that community, my paintings are really made in a solitary world. Usually I don’t share them until I’m done with them. I love to hear what my peers have to say about them, but I guess it’s kind of rare that I open up during the creation of a painting. What’s more important to me is having access to museums and galleries. Often just being in an artistic community, whether I’m an active participant or not, is enough for me. Whether that’s an advantage or disadvantage regarding my work, I don’t know.
[On influences:] A few off the top of my head…Friedrich for the epic quality of his paintings. Also because many of his paintings referred to the actual and appear very believable, but were greatly informed by his feelings. Burchfield for his close connection to what was around him as well as a joy in experiencing it. Burchfield is important to me also because of how humble his work appears. His paintings are so dramatic but are so clearly the work of one man just looking at what’s around him. They feel like they were made sitting down, and I mean that in a good way. Vuillard for making paintings of what was around him that seem both intimate and epic. Bonnard for his palette of strange warm cools and cool warms. Similar to Vuillard in the armchair epic department. I guess that’s the common ground between these artists.
I’m influenced by the above painters for their idiosyncratic vision, their adherence to their personal vision. An important lesson I learn from them is that I’ll be alright if I do my own thing, if I believe in what I’m doing. It’s definitely stifling to have your heroes in mind all of the time. So I think it’s best to follow your own path, and when you get stuck, consult them for some help and then continue on.
View more of Joseph Noderer’s work here.