Over the past two months I have shifted my focus back to minimal painting, with new focus, commitment, and energy.
I embarked upon a new series, titled Reciprocal, in December. Thus far, I have produced six paintings. Below are the three larger works.
Minimal paintings Reciprocal 1, 2, and 3. December 2014 – January 2015. Each measures 40 inches square (102 cm square) and is acrylic on canvas.
Why return to minimal paintings? Essentially, I felt like I had unfinished business to address.
I had made sketches for minimal paintings over the past couple of years, but I was merely filing them away. As those sketches formed a growing pile, making geometric, pattern-oriented paintings — what I call maximalism — excited me more.
Ultimately, I hit a wall with maximalism last September. I was beginning to see pattern-on-pattern artwork and design everywhere. I felt as if I had nothing to add to the conversation. Lacking direction for nearly three months, I painted nothing.
In early December, I turned a corner. Emboldened by interest in my minimal work from a major fashion design house, I carefully revisited that pile of unpainted minimal sketches. I began to see the sketches in a new way, and realized that they deserved to have a life in physical reality, not simply in pixels.
In 2007 and 2008, I had a remarkably prolific outpouring of minimal works, of nearly three dozen paintings. Most were smaller — each about 10 inches square, painted on panel. Looking back on that era, I realized how much flexibility those smaller works afforded me.
As a part of a new way of working, I am placing greater emphasis on smaller works, viewing them now as studies. For example, below is a trio of studies for Reciprocal 3, made on wood panels.
Three studies for minimal painting Reciprocal 3. December 2014 – January 2015. Each measures 10 inches square by 1.5 inches deep (25 x 25 x 4 cm) and are acrylic on panel-mounted canvas.
Considering the dimensions of these cradled panels — 10 inches square by 1.5 inches deep (25 x 25 x 4 cm) — I’m forced to pay attention to how the compositions will travel onto the sides of the panels. These pieces seem to be more sculptural in nature, as a result. A 40-inch-square (102 cm) canvas would need 6-inch-deep (15 cm)sides to achieve the same effect.
What I have learned from these six paintings, produced throughout December and January, is that minimal work is not just about design and composition. It’s also about mindset. I have found that my thinking has calmed somewhat. I feel more appreciation for subtlety, and I find myself “listening” to the negative space in each composition.
Perhaps this sense of calm and focus is why I have returned to minimal painting. I feel a new freedom to explore space. My mind is remaining quiet and receptive, carefully listening for combinations of line and color that excite me.
I’m not forcing paintings to happen, and it feels wonderful.