Experiments in Form

Abstract Sketch, Clay Johnson
Abstract Sketch, Clay Johnson

Lately I’ve been exploring some ideas with regard to form and (at times) representation. I have always been an abstract painter, so on a personal level I have some interest in seeing what would happen if I were to actually represent something—if I were to paint a picture “of something.” What would that something be, and how would I represent it? These initial experiments simply take the first step by creating an object/ground scenario, something that is almost entirely absent in the series that I’ve been working on for the last several years. I would have to say that anything approaching realism is out of the question because for me painting is an exercise in self-expression and improvisation that is not compatible with the obligation to make things look “correct.” Even representing objects in any sense at all may prove more restrictive than I can abide, but for now it’s interesting to see what develops. So far I’ve found that I’m drawn to images (shapes) that are not recognizable as things that I see around me, but which convey certain familiar attitudes and are subject to the natural forces (laws of physics) that govern elements in the physical world.

Three Sketches

Sketch #1, by Clay Johnson
Sketch #2, by Clay Johnson
Sketch #3, by Clay Johnson

I’ve made some small painting experiments lately that focus more on the materiality of paint and less on the geometric compositional structure that I’ve used for the last several years. The result is a looser, freer feeling that really appeals to me. Where this is headed I can’t say for sure, but for now it’s a matter of finding the right balance between structure and chaos.

Shizen Handmade Paper

Clay Johnson painting on Shizen handmade paper
I recently bought ten sheets of Shizen paper. These are 12″x12″ sheets (approximately), handmade in India. The surface is rougher than what I normally use, and very irregular, so I’m having to make some adjustments in my process, which has led to some interesting results. When these small paintings are finished, I intend to feature them in an online exhibition, a fundraiser for frontline health care workers.

New Aluminum Panels

Dibond panels in the studio of Clay Johnson
I recently had some new panels built. The faces are made of Dibond aluminum sheets, which are mounted to poplar cradles. They look beautiful, and the aluminum composite means no warping whatsoever. I wasn’t sure about painting on metal, but I really like the feel of it, and I can control the surface texture depending on how I prime the aluminum.