bringing ireland home
Recently I photographed all of the paintings that I did during my residency at the Cill Rialaig project in Co. Kerry, Ireland in October/November of 2012. You can view the whole album
on my facebook page.
I loved looking closely again at these paintings (water-based mixed media on paper, for the most part) with a bit of time and distance now from the source of their inspiration. They evoke for me the rough textures and atmosphere of the West coast of Ireland where I spent those three memorable weeks, and for this reason are close to my heart. But I'm also interested in them in more formal terms. Though the original paintings are emotional responses to landscape, in doing these paintings I developed some ideas of composition, color and surface that are now part of my visual vocabulary. Going into a residency it's impossible to know what will emerge in the work, and what will carry forward into new bodies of work that follow, so the journey continues in unexpected ways once you're home.
My work in Ireland was mostly done with acrylic paints, acrylic mediums, drawing materials and water color. I worked with these materials quickly, averaging about a painting a day (though, as at home, I had more than one going at a time. ) The paintings have a spontaneity, and roughness that please me, and the quick drying time and use of pencils and pastels also created an emphasis on edge and line. A distinctive feature of these paintings is the defined border on each sheet of paper-- it was necessary to tape my paper to a board in the Cill Rialaig studio (I was working on an easel.) While I sometimes kept the border white, I usually removed the tape off and on during the process (as I switched paintings on my board) and would often paint a layer of color clear to the edge as I set the work aside. So most of the borders show evidence of underlying layers of paint, and create contrast in color and value. It is interesting that in these paintings, the border "works" because it was a necessary and integral part of the process, and that this is not an aspect of the Ireland work that carried over to my work at home. I've tried a few times to recreate the effect of a precise border in an oil and cold wax painting on panel, but taken out of the context of the process, the idea seemed forced and awkward.
As I worked on my paintings in Ireland, the borders I was creating seemed to pull my attention to edges in general. I began to play around with uneven and jagged layering along the perimeters of the work, as in this painting, CR #9 (14"x11".) I like the tension created between the taped edge and the more evolved edge.
This more general interest in edge translates well to oil and cold wax, and has become an ongoing interest since coming home, as seen in this recent 12"x12" (untitled as yet) painting. I have been adding sand and other materials and digging in with palette knives to make the edges textural and rough.
Another aspect of many of my Ireland paintings is the contrast of atmospheric color fields with linear elements, often criss-crossing the picture plane, as in the examples below, CR #5 (14"x11") and Green Trails (16"x12.") In an unfamiliar landscape I find myself noticing certain distinctive features over and over, and these find their way into my work. In County Kerry, around Cill Rialaig my eyes were drawn to the low stone walls separating the farm fields, which created linear patterns on the fields of late-autumn colors. While lines have been important in my work for years, this sight led to an emphasis on horizontal lines creating loose grids. I also found myself noticing lines in many of the stones of the area--strong simple lines crossing beach stones, complex lines in the standing stones of ancient sites, and the patterns of stone fences along the road sides.
Line played off against a subtle color field is something I am continuing to explore in my current studio work. The small painting below, Mapping (12"x12" oil and mixed media on panel) shows both interesting edges and subtle lines incised into the paint, and there are many more related paintings in progress. I'm moving now into work for my exhibit at the Pratt Museum in Homer, AK in August, which have a very different focus from my Ireland paintings. Yet I can already see that some of the visual vocabulary from my residency will translate well into this new body of work--these kind of transformations are an intriguing sign of the creative process at work.