In the past few weeks, a series of small paintings (12"x 12")with strong dark/light contrast and very textured surfaces has been evolving in my studio. Whites--titanium, buff titanium, ivory white--and darks--carbon black, sepia, asphaltum--are the paints I have been reaching for most often as I bring closure to a painting. Because the paintings are layered, as always, with many other choices, bits of those show through for sparks of color. But it is the stark contrast that I'm intrigued with in this work.
Since I haven't intentionally been painting in a series (I rarely do) when a number of strongly related paintings emerge it makes me wonder why. In this case, I think maybe the work is a response to the time of year here in Wisconsin, when the softness of summer is giving way to elemental darks and lights (it's still fall, but the colors have become muted and snowy season is not far off.) Or maybe it's a response to the passing of long time friend. Awareness of mortality and the drama of life and death have been heightened in the wake of that sad event. And there is definitely some purely visual excitement--the contrast of rich darks and subtle lights, and the challenge of keeping subtle elements in play along with the more dramatic elements.
I enjoy speculating what has brought these paintings on. But I love even more knowing that whatever is behind them is complex and mysterious. There is no straightforward explanation, and like many artists, I'm intrigued by the notion that what comes out in my work is a distillation of many factors--aspects of the visual world, emotions and experiences. These form a tantalizing tangle, not easily unraveled.
I don't mean to say that I'm always completely mystified by my paintings. Finding connections, revealing underlying meaning often does happen, over time. Or even in a moment of insight. Once a series acquires a title and some definition, the desire for a more focused exploration of the ideas may follow. And that's all good--but I am also OK with a series remaining undefined and untitled (other than say, "Dark/Light Series.) It seems right that there is some work that remains inscrutable.
The painting above is part of the just-named Dark/Light Series
, 12"x12" oil and mixed media on panel.