Saturday, September 29, 2012

Adding Time to the Palette

When I went to see the "Color as Field" exhibit in the Museum of American Art, I was just blown away by the huge canvases and the color everywhere. All abstract, which is a hard sell for me. But this show was special. Unfortunately, I was only able to see it once. By the time I was able to go back, it had already been packed up and shipped to its next stop.

But it left a lasting impression.

One of the paintings (and this feels awfully familiar, as if I've already written about this, so just skip ahead if you remember it) was by Helen Frankenthaler, on unprimed canvas. This painting was done in oils. And the oil in the paint had spread out into the unprimed canvas. The color was localized, and the oil darkened the natural canvas color without taking any of the pigment with it.

Another thought: much impasto painting can crack, especially if painted in oil. So the painting gets a spiderweb of small cracks through the paint. Other things: the colors can fade depending on the light in which they are hung. Maybe even some pigments change slightly over time. Canvas gets old. It discolors a bit. Air in contact with paint and paper and canvas will cause changes.

In addition, using mixed media throws some uncertainty into the pot. I like to use oil sticks - haven't found anything that works like that for acrylics. But water will not stick to oil, so with time, those two elements should react in such a way as to cause changes.

So, rather than fighting against the changes wrought by time, I say let's celebrate them. Welcome time into the palette and use it. Incorporate paper that will discolor. Use materials that will disintegrate or even tear. Put water over oil!

I like the concept.

Below, mixed media from today:

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