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A while back, I had a dream. A monk was giving me lessons on Zen circles. You know, the perfectly imperfect brush mark, executed in one fluid gesture, simultaneously practiced, and spontaneous. I had this dream in mind, apparently, as I visited the artists at 1000 Parker this last weekend during the Parker Salon.
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1000 Parker is my neighbour building, a rambling warren of artist studios and light industrial spaces. There are many, many painters, who I never can visit during Crawl because I am fielding the public in my own studio. This last weekend, they had an open studio, so I eagerly went to the opening on friday night.
The third floor walls were set up with paintings, salon style, decked out in a fresh coat of paint and lit by efficient LED lighting and romantic chandeliers. As is the norm for Parker openings, it was crazy crowded. I talked with a few artists, but the crowds and sounds overwhelmed me, so I decided to return on saturday for a more peaceable visit. I thought to highlight a few of the artists who I talked with, particularly whose who are working in a very abstract vein, to share their journeys and motivations.
Michael Brown, in #105, works in egg tempera, a notoriously unforgiving and time intensive medium mostly seen in medieval icon painting . He comes from a background of representational painting, and showed me his first egg tempera piece, a finely detailed, colourful still life. His current work is almost monochromatic, and approaches abstraction formally, using soft shapes to integrate light and space into the picture plane. His process is meditative in its attention to detail. He showed me one of his prepped panels, the result of layered coats of traditional gesso and repeated sandings. It was utterly smooth and free of any imperfections. I so much appreciate that kind of dedication. It really speaks of the time and attention which artists pour into their work.
Karen Holland, in #202, is also making a shift to painting which is more about process than subject. She has a bright, warm palette, using complementary colours and complex compositions with a strong sense of design. Her movement to more abstract themes has involved a great deal of reconsideration of her process, as she moves away from texture and embraces the painted surface to inform the direction of her work, always working towards greater clarity of purpose in her painting.
Lucas Wolf had a collection of large scale, mostly hard edged abstraction.
And then there was this one. Also carefully considered, impeccably executed, but working with the japanese aesthetic of simplicity, immediacy, and the acceptance of chance. His work falls into these two camps... one that plans, measures, divides, and structures, and the other that plans, then allows for trust in the the one perfect motion. On a 60" square canvas, that is a lot of trust...
The third floor was quiet on Saturday when I visited the studio of Carole Sinclair. Her work is minimalist, in mostly neutral shades, with much attention to mark making, collage and drawing. She emphasizes immediacy, allowing the composition to take shape additively and without preconception. It takes a certain mind control to ignore all those internal critics and just let the painting unfold in its own way. Her work is quiet, understated, and elegant, like hand woven linen folded carefully in a travel worn suitcase.
Katja Zubkova is a young artist whose bold, confident abstracts proclaim her faith in the automatic process. She keeps a sparse studio. Her paintings present with large coloured shapes and chance symbols. There is not the sense of carefully planning a composition, or of exploiting the materials. Rather, these canvases are expressive and spontaneous, with a certain restraint that prevents them from becoming self indulgent.
The last artist I will mention is Carla Tak. She is a prolific artist, with a studio full of finished work. Tak's dense paintings are lively and uninhibited, with an emphasis on rhythm and form. She builds her paintings organically, allowing for automatic colour choices and motifs. Her paintings explore the flatness of the picture plane with a variety of brush marks and a playful attitude.
Back to the Zen circles...
The idea of painting, and repainting, the same motif until the artist reaches a certain level of knowledge is an important part of the painting process. 10000 hours and all that. What I see in these painters of more abstract ideas, is a dedication to developing their art, even in the absence of an accepted criteria for judging the result.
Faith, in your own vision, and trust, in your own abilities, are the final arbitrators, so that when we make that indelible brush mark, we put our knowledge and experience into the process, and it is always imperfectly perfect, in its own way.
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