Thursday, August 16, 2012

Less Color, Please.

    I have recently (over the past year and a half or so, to be somewhat more precise) produced about a dozen paintings that differ markedly from the rest of my body of work in that they are more nearly colorless than has otherwise become the norm in my painting.  The first of these works to be completed was Acerbity and Other Calendars.  My original intention with this piece was not necessarily to create an image whose structural integrity was largely not dependent upon the interplay and contrast of color, but as the work evolved by means of successive layers of textural accretion, I purposely permitted more and more of the original color elements to became obscured, as I found them increasingly superfluous to the now-rapidly-changing gestalt of the piece.  I soon realized that this painting had acquired its own intrinsic logic that spoke to me with a radically different voice than any of my other paintings did. 
    As work progressed on Acerbity, I found myself revisiting the work and writings of other painters whom I admire, who, at least for a time, either partially or completely eschewed the use of color in their work.  Among these figures were Franz Kline, Nicolas Carone, Sal Sirugo, Kyle Morris, Ary Stillman, and Preben Hornung.  There are other, perhaps better known, individuals who could be cited, but these painters have always held a special place in my heart, largely for what they could accomplish through the expedient of denying themselves a full color palette.  I read and studied a great deal, in an attempt to quantify and better understand why this painting, and its attendant stylistic shift, was so affecting to me.
    Although I am generally quick to seek an explanation for my own emotional responses in the realm of reason, sometimes even I have to admit that research cannot satisfy every curiosity.  Even though I doubt very much that I was experiencing something that other painters before me had not also experienced, the effort to produce a greater understanding of the phenomenon before me via research was largely a failure.   
    Admitting to myself that I was in unfamiliar territory was an important step, in that it caused me to slow work on this canvas exponentially, as I meticulously evaluated each new decision, virtually each new brushstroke, with a premeditation that I realized ran decidedly counter to the dictates of automatism, which, of course, has long been seen as one of the guiding principles of Abstract Expressionism.
    It soon became apparent that Acerbity would corotate around the interrelationships between its sundry degrees of light, or white, and its varying degrees of dark, or black and gray.  This gradually began to affect the contours of the painting in unforeseen ways, as the more traditionally expected situation of darker content corralling and defining the lighter areas was countered by the lighter content seeking to exert a contrasting influence on the nature and positioning of the darker areas.
    Several months of obsessive tinkering passed before I was convinced that the variform elements of the painting had finally been brought into a state of accommodation with one another.
    The phenomenon I had sought so mightily to understand (namely the question as to what specific qualities of Acerbity had caused me to become so much more absorbed, and so differently absorbed, by its intrinsic reality and inner logic than I was expecting) by reducing it to its identifiably intellectualized components, still eluded me, but I continued to explore these ideas, moods, and structural manifestations over the next many months, and I have now begun reintroducing color into my canvases in a way that attempts to integrate aspects of my pre-Acerbity aesthetic with what I have learned since.  The recent painting which perhaps best exemplifies this synthesis is my just-completed work, Migration With Gothic Protocols.  Watch for its image to appear on the Paintings page in the next few months.

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