Small Paintings for Big Problems
As we all know, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing almost every facet of our lives in one way or another, and in ways that we don’t yet fully understand. But in the meantime, there are thousands of frontline medical workers who don’t have time to think about that—they are just trying to do their jobs as best they can, often with very limited resources. The proceeds from the sale of these paintings will go to support those women and men, and to help them (in a very small way) to keep us all safe. Click here for the details.
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“There’s an intimacy when working on a small scale, and on paper, that’s very different from the experience of making large paintings.”
I think that when this pandemic began, there was a global, collective inclination to slow down and look inward. Honestly, the day to day circumstances of my work life haven’t changed that much, so I could have chosen to work on larger paintings, but it seemed somehow appropriate to get some small sheets of handmade paper and see what I could do.
This is an Indian paper called Shizen. It’s very irregular, both the texture and the edges, so with the compositional structure that I use it didn’t work well to cover the whole sheet of paper with paint. It created an unsettling effect. I decided to make 8″x8″ images in the center of the 12″x12″ sheets. And that sets up an interesting tension between the clean, straight edges of the image and the organic boundaries of the paper.
Working on the paintings for this exhibition has been a real pleasure for me, and I’ve learned a lot from the experience. I’ve been utilizing this basic compositional system for about five years now, and there are days when I feel it’s time to move on. But painting on this handmade paper, with all of its inconsistencies, has reconfirmed for me that I love working with a simple, geometric composition whose execution is not entirely in my control. The imperfections in the surface create unexpected effects more beautiful than what premeditation could accomplish.
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