“After the Arrangement (for MvO)” 40″ x 80″ oil on canvas/panel, 2021 (detail)
The artists I admire across Painting’s long history are those who invite viewers to enter a space of sustained visual engagement and curiosity, one where everything outside the painting falls away, and what’s left is absorption into the act of looking.
The studio is a place of invention and reinvention, where the challenge and joy is to use everything I know about how paintings have been made over the centuries, and how they can be made. I love what’s involved in painting representationally – the close observation and concentration required to translate looking into a record of having seen. But Abstract Expressionism – my first serious crush as a student of painting – taught me the thrill of being in the moment with a developing image, and guarding the possibility of its radical reenvisioning for as long as possible. That lesson has stuck, and today I balance those two drives in my practice.
Painters and paintings speak to and of each other across those centuries. Studying a Rogier van der Weyden Deposition From the Cross that I admire (c.1432), it’s liable to be the 20th century master Max Beckmann that I’m reminded of, despite the 500 years between them and the dissimilarity of their narratives and methods. Both artists made works whose formal ingenuity, compression of multiple figures on the picture plane, and gravitas, link them for me. Looking at a Rembrandt – standing as close to it as I can and trying to imagine what it was like to place those strokes – I’m liable to begin musing about the Philip Gustons I’ve stood in front of and how he, the painter I admire above all others, spoke of his reverence for Rembrandt. In those moments of reverie the artists I admire are contemporaries, and once again I’m reminded that narrative –for the great painters– has always been just an excuse to make a painting.
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