Since my time in Ireland last fall, shapes have entered my recent work--big, shaggy, organic shapes. I relate them to land forms and colors of the part of County Mayo where I stayed for seven weeks, and was impressed by the craggy bog landscape and rugged sea cliffs. The oil painting above is Boglands #1, 36"x36", 2014.
Dominant shapes have not been part of my imagery since the late 80's, and I feel that I'm rediscovering an old idea in a new way. Those earlier earlier shapes tended to be harder edged, less subtle. There was often a triangular or shield-like shape, and were important in my path to where I am now, as some of my first explorations of abstract forms. The painting below, Shield, 30"x 24"
, is from 1987. I saw these shapes as strong yet also fragmented, a reflection of the particular emotional state I was in at the time, beginning my career as an artist and raising young children.
After this time, my work entered a more landscape-inspired phase, and headed back toward representation for a number of years. When I entered fully into abstraction in the early 2000s, my work tended toward color field and geometric divisions rather than distinctive shapes. Multiple panel constructions gave structure to these color fields, or simple divisions were created within the picture plane. Although I included soft shapes and gestural marks in these paintings, I didn't tend to emphasize distinctive shapes within the color fields. Below, a painting from 2011, Fragment
Soft, atmospheric shapes did begin to enter my work about this time, and to gradually develop a unique character. An ongoing series which I call the Veil Series
includes paintings such as the one below from 2012, Veil #6
, 20"x16." I continue to enjoy working with these rather undefined cloudy forms, inspired (as much of my current work is) by time spent in Ireland.
Strong, bold shapes are what's really new and exciting to me. Some are of soft color and edge, showing a pretty clear progression from the Veil
paintings, such as the one at the top of the page, and this one, Mayo #2
and others are dark, bold and massive, painted with memories of the dramatic cliffs of North Mayo and Clare Island. Below, Mayo Coast #5, 2014, 60"x48." The detail shot below the main picture shows that some edges I am working with continue to have a soft quality, while others are stronger. I find myself paying a lot of attention to edges as I work on these, wanting them to have variety, and a quirky, organic sort of energy.
I'm excited about continuing in this direction, and find I have a very keen sense of what is "right" when it comes to these shapes. I spend a lot of time searching out their boundaries, tweaking and shifting. I also find challenge in making dark, dense, solid forms that also contain variety of surface and subtle color shifts.
Bringing shape back into my work has been an evolving process, and as always, I find that change for me comes slowly, in progression, and relates to something in my own experience. I am reminded of this process every time I teach and talk with students who often view abstraction as something to dive into without reference. Connection to feelings, memories and visual impressions of the world are for me the source of ongoing ideas and imagery.