I created these paintings during my Artist Residency at the Berlin Art Institute fall 2017. In these works, I was interested and inspired by cosmology, the idea of the multiverse, esoteric philosophy that acknowledges the inherent mystery around us, optical illusions, mindscape as landscape, and inversion of space.
In these paintings, I wanted to convey the sense that you don’t know exactly what you are looking at, that you are peeking under a veil into something magical, but you can’t see it if you stare directly, but you can sense it—the elements coming together, dancing in your periphery. There is a multi-dimensionality that has always been of interest to me, but in this series, the dimensions are less angular, and more fluid, overlapping—realms within realms. The portal theme that has been defining of my practice for years has now metamorphosed into portals within the painting, not just the painting as portal.
The paintings arose from intense looking, writing, research, and from focused reading, mostly Kafka’s short stories. Kafka’s signature writing style, of setting a scene with certain details and key pieces missing, giving the reader agency to fill in the blanks, was a profound inspiration for these works. In many of his short stories, the ending either subverts the entire point of the pre-established story, resulting in a mind-blowing experience, thought-exercise, and surprising illumination of an ending, or lack-thereof. Many of his stories seem unfinished, and that is precisely why they are so incredible. They are more about the process, the journey, even if it’s to no end. My time in Berlin was entirely about the search, the process, the deep dive. It was about “the intentional state of non-arrival,” (another painting title) precisely inspired by this idea of deep search, and of accepting that not everything, nor every painting, has to be finely tuned and “finished” in the most commonly understood sense. This idea is related to my long-standing favorite Japanese philosophy of ‘Wabi Sabi’, or finding beauty in imperfection. The spaces in between are often the most important, allowing for air, breathe, and soul to seep in. The energy holds the composition together like an invisible universal scaffolding.
The series is very autobiographical, and stemmed from shedding layers and reaching inside to pull out the work I needed to make at that moment. The work came from a raw, vulnerable, and honest place. The whole experience in Berlin was an inversion; an inversion of time (working mostly late at night), an inversion of color (incorporating the negative spectrum alongside my more standard positive spectrum) and inversion of self (opening up to feeling raw).
• There are larger, more open, sweeping the forms in the compositions. These allow for more open access for the viewer to enter the composition. There is also a greater range in the size of forms.
• I was also focusing on creating the illusion of the inversion of space, flipping the foreground and background, as well as the sky and the ground.
• In these paintings, I experimented with color, bringing in the negative spectrum alongside my characteristic positive spectrum to deepen the range. My color choices were very intentional, but still intuitive. I spent a few hours before each painting session mixing the colors, almost like a moving meditation.
• From my residency studio notes: “My work has taken on a completely different dimension. I’m still interested in bringing people into the work, to have them experience, to give them agency in the completion of the creation, to make them feel. But I am interested in presenting the range of color experience, not just bright colors, and not all colors at once, but creating a space that is at once inviting and hopeful but dynamic, with depth of field and feeling, and rich sophisticated space that makes you feel deeply, not just high-frequency.”
• In these paintings, I opted for thinner paint application with many layers so the paintings have a deep color-field resonance. I left some raw canvas to show through to give the composition breathing room amidst the paint application. Subtracting paint by rubbing out areas using a turpentine-laden cloth and then adding back paint became an important technical element, creating cloud-like areas and voluminous forms, like the orange area in the bottom left corner of “Luminous Undercurrent.” Other technical elements defining the Berlin series include painting on linen, naming the paintings right after completion to give them an authenticity to the moment and connection to my studio writing, and blocking out the background into color quadrants to help create a sense of depth.