Helmut Federle posits that there has never been a significant period in world history where art and society exist on the same level, that the solitary alienation of the artist within society is unavoidable. Federle suggests contemporary American art embodies a prescience of striving for base values; reasons to exist, and that the the toxic pall cast by our current financial debacle weighs in heavily as far as American art being produced today. By comparison, the European arena embraces the existence of art as art itself, without questioning the being or lack thereof of underlying creative desires and energies.
From this rather isolated pile of rocks in the Atlantic, I admit it is difficult to weigh in with much substance. One thing is for certain: as a contemporary artist working within a global field, it is extraordinary to be able to share and connect ideas and language with one another. I may lead a hermetic life, but my society, as I choose to define it, is vital.
Recently I've been introduced to two artists working within the same reductive aesthetic as myself, Connie Goldman from California, in the United States, and Cecilia Vissers from
Sint-Oedenrode, The Netherlands. We each embrace the importance of space, rhythm and structure within our work. As Cecilia has said to me,
"...It is very important to find interesting spaces for reductive art, all over the world, as it is a very specific form of art. We go back to basics, sometimes it feels like living on a very small island. We need to cross borders and swim oceans, be strong and not get lost in 'artland'....".
Cecilia Vissers Needles and Pins
The work is driven by power, rhythm, repetition and pattern. Logic is regularly challenged in apparently inflexible materials and irrefutable forms. Her plate steel sculptures are executed in 8/15 mm steel, and weigh up to 200 kg, with one or perhaps several minimal saw cuts, only enough to produce a clear and concentrated form.
" I strive to find a clarity and concentration of form, line and color through minimal intervention enacted in a plate of steel."
The steel plates are immersed in four separate baths, a process of electrolysis referred to as anodization. The resulting patinas are bonded permanently to the surfaces, eliciting rich
Cecilia Vissers Studio, 2009
tones of hue to the steel plates. For Vissers, the steel plates, which are made in Germany, function as large sponges saturated with strength, power, life, death and history.
"... I am looking for simplicity in a raging world, a world that I am very happy to discover but also need to avoid every now and then."
Cecilia Vissers work can be seen at Elements Gallery in Waarle, The Netherlands. Her upcoming Paris exhibition, En Forme, with the artist Eric Cruikshank opens in 2010 at ParisCONCRET .
Connie Goldman creates wall sculptures of layered, shaped and painted wood. Her reductive constructions focus on the spaces created between layers of flat, modular planes. Her work begins as very loose sketches which are eventually translated into shaped wooden panels. The panels are meticulously painted and put together in layers. There is a harmony; balance within this meditative, beautiful work.
Connie Goldman Captive I Oil on Wood Panel, 53x43 inches 2006
In her own words:
"Using a minimalist vocabulary and a reductive aesthetic that emphasizes the importance of space, rhythm, structure, and relations, I make works of art that are concrete and essential approximations of my own emotional and intellectual experiences. The work reflects my interests in architecture, music, science, sculpture, and painting as well as the threads of commonality that run between them.
Connie Goldman Eddy
"The tendency or desire to gravitate toward unity and stability is in opposition to the urge toward independence, transition, and growth. My work evokes this same tension, the dynamic that underlies my own existence. I see each piece as being analogous to the rhythmic and contradictory forces of stasis and flux that propel my world toward both constancy and change".
Connie Goldman Current VIII
Goldman's lyrical compositions yield a variety of quiet shadows which broaden the spaces in between the flat but open modular constructions. The various planes become an interplay of light, space and form, giving each configuration a sophisticated elegance.
Set apart from their house, Dry Creek Studio is a sweeping, cantilevered structure with clerestory windows that open to all four directions, the largest facing north and south. The building is divided into two separate studios: Johnnie’s faces east, toward Taos Mountain, and Carole Sue’s faces west, toward Pedernal Mountain -- mountains often painted by Georgia O’Keeffe. Separate doorways and porches keep the spaces individual and private.
Carole Sue Ross’s studio features shelves and tables to hold her hand-built, polished and smoked vessels which when finished, are mounted on a simple white shelf. “I want them to look contemporary but have an ancient feel”. Carole designs and nurtures PocoCasa’s beautiful gardens and plantings of fruit trees, sage, chamiso, juniper, aspen and pine. Flagstone walkways connect the buildings and wind around terraces and a ramada. Acacias border a seasonal pond where birds nest.
Johnnie Winona Ross at Dry Creek Studio
Johnnie Winona Ross
Johnnie Winona Ross is very interested in the nature of painting, and in process. His vocabulary is rich in paradoxical components that imbue his quiet, pristine surfaces with a tension of both chance and structure. I am very moved by this. They are strong, yet personal; formalistic, yet profoundly spiritual.
"....I look for the feeling that being in the landscape gives me, a feeling at the small of my back when I see something beautiful and consider it sacred. That's what I go for in my work, and I try to achieve that by keeping things minimal, almost meditative." -Johnnie Winona Ross
The process of painting, scraping and repainting establishes a subliminal dynamic between counteractive elements --presence/absence, structure/freedom, resistance/release, richness/ austerity -- so that the painting itself becomes an elegant and sensuously integrated expression of oppositions. The viewer is quietly entranced by the purity of form, light and the suggestion of what lies beneath; the artists’ process, his hand.
"....Repeating the mark, or the drip, scraping, burnishing, builds a physical history within the painting …… when you see worn stone steps, whether at an Anasazi site, or the Met, it is interesting to consider the scores of people that have used or are using the steps in roughly the same way; or seeing the keys on an old piano, worn with use. You realize that you are just part of the stream of history, a large or small part, but you are only moving through.”
- Johnnie Winona Ross
Ross is a consummate painter. His depth of experience is clear, from start to finish of each piece, as all aspects of his creative process bear the same touch. From his preferences for particular substrate materials, to the final, meticulous polishing of surface with a traditional burnishing stone of native Pueblo potters, Ross approaches all with the same integrity and sensitivity.
"... There is a beauty in that a craft, a care, are conscience decisions being made that maybe help one to be aware of the possibility…. that the overall effect of the painting somehow transcends the everyday physical world... (This) is a philosophical choice...."
-Johnnie Winona Ross
"It was spiritual to experience a rock art panel that was 2000-5000 years old, that is more affecting then any piece of art that I’ve ever seen. In 1994, I spent another year on grant at Roswell, my work really solidified, it wasn't like it really changed, it just became more powerful, it began to have that feeling of 'experiencing the rock art panel', or 'experiencing the desert', it became still, real, and a unique experience. My studio has 12' glass doors that face a 13,000' mountain, to one side of that is Taos Mountain, the sacred mountain. It is an unobstructed view. That view feeds me, every time that I look up.”
Carole Sue Ross Tilting Series 2008, Stoneware, Pit-Fired
Carole Sue Ross
Inspired by the exceptional quality of light and the open horizon of the land, Carole Sue Ross creates delicate smoke-fired ceramic vessels that rely on gravity, balance and weight. She molds the shallow clay pots by hand and fires them with eucalyptus wood or sage to color the surfaces. Her finished pieces are cohesive, visual groupings of these beautiful vessels, each taking into consideration the color, size, and direction of their respective tilting.
I am very attracted to the fluent color transition from within the vessels that radiates throughout the space that surrounds them. Color, for this reason, as well as the sensitive form, seems central in the luminous quality and consistency of these small, responsive pieces.
Carole Sue Ross Untitled Series 2008, Stoneware, Pit-fired
"After the initial forming, many layers of terra sigillata are applied. This mixture both seals and leaves the work with a satin smoothness and iridescent finish. The system of working is reminiscent of the process used by early Pueblo people going back to the eighth century.
“After bisquing, pieces are fired numerous times in a pit. Depending on the combustibles used -- eucalyptus, sage, seeds -- the resulting smoked areas ad patterns are both spontaneous and controlled."
Carole Sue Ross Tilting Series #5, 2008, Stoneware, Pit-fired
Carole Sue Ross’s work can be seen at Cervini Haas Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ. You may run into her work at Cafe Loka in Taos, New Mexico.
.... finally reuniting their hearts and being, Johnnie Winona Ross and Carole Sue Ross achieve work that has a glowing meditative presence, that reveals the austerity and subtlety of the desert landscape reduced to its experience; of mystical aura and natural formal beauty....
Must be the Land of Enchantment….
Thanks Carole Sue
Fiona Robinson There and Back, Acrylic, Oil, Charcoal on Canvas, 2006: 90x70cms
For me, the pairing of these two artists has been instinctive, yet also a bit unfocused. I discovered, though, that although their techniques and expression vary considerably, they embrace a manifestation of life commonly, through line and through the earth; a human grounding of time and memory; history in the most profound sense.
Fiona Robinson is an artist living and working in Weymouth - Dorset, England -- a seaport village 140 miles southeast of London, and 140 miles northwest of Cornwall. Several years ago, we connected through the Drawing Research Network, an organization based in the UK, comprised of individuals and institutions who are in some way involved in the research of drawing. We began a professional dialogue across these many miles which has resulted in a deep, professional respect, but also developed into a wonderful friendship.
Fiona Robinson Circular Walk 6, from The Journey Sequence, Pencil on Paper, 2007: 70x50cms
"The Circular Walk series refers to a walk accompanying a fellow artist on a route of her choice across the moor land of West Penwith between the parishes of Morvah and Madron. We started near Bosullow, walked up and over Watch Croft, joined the footpath to Nine Maidens Stone Circle, more accurately, the Boskednan Stone Circle and back to the beginning. Walking around stone circles within a circular walk became a series of circles within circles. Between the beginning and the end there is only uncertainty, explores the idea that nothing repeated can ever be the same. Any journey, however great, however small, has two certainties, a beginning and an end; it is what happens in between that has potential."
Fiona's abstract drawing sequences are conceptual journeyings through chosen and intimately felt landscape; collective records of experience pertaining to time and space, physical meanderings and memory. Her soft tonal surfaces, on paper and canvas, are saturated with layer upon layer of spontaneous line -- traversing the plane in fits and stops of transition -- sometimes smooth, often broken, only to resume its pace again, renewed, perhaps, by possibilites of destination and of return.
Fiona Robinson Journey Sequence 2007 installation , New Greenham Arts, UK
In 2007, Fiona won the University of Bath Painting Prize, UK, and was a Prizewinner at the 4th International Drawing Biennale, Melbourne, Australia. She is also a recipient of the Proof Magazine Brabcombe Award, UK and the Indigo Arts Prize, Liverpool, UK. She has been an invited artist at the International Drawing Biennale in Kosovo 2008, and was selected for the the Vth International Drawing Biennale, Pilsen 2006, Czech Republic. Recent shows include Lineweight at TSU Art Gallery, Missouri USA; Drawing Room II, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol UK; Transition at Rougemont Castle Exeter, UK and the Oxo Tower, London, UK. She has been awarded residencies at Brisons Veor, Cape Cornwall, UK; The Cill Rialaig Project, Co.Kerry, Ireland; and is a 2010 Recipient of the Ballinglen Arts Foundation Fellowship Award, Co. Mayo, Ireland.
"Opposite Ends of a Possible Path became about possibilities. A record of the memory of a walk over the hills above Upwey near Weymouth, it had been done many times but the painting specifically acknowledges that each time it is different. The lines are infinite variations of the route taken, preserved in a film of paint. It is about how memory fades as time elapses. In the painting the physicality of the line pales becoming a distant echo of earlier layers. Because of the organisation of space within the painting the route appears to change as the viewers move from one position to another. The work embraces the idea of mutability and variation. In it’s combining of paint and charcoal it deliberately overlaps the techniques of painting and drawing."
In her own words:
"My work is about journeys and memory; journeys through spaces, through time and through memory. They are rooted in place but often exist only in memory. My father was born in Cork in Ireland in 1913 and one of his earliest memories, probably before 1920, was being taken to Kerry on the back of a cart to a family wake. The journey took three days, some of it on unmade roads, through a landscape that was wild and inhospitable. In 2008 I travelled to Kerry, to take up a residency as part of the Cill Rialaig Project in the Ballinskelligs. The roads are better now but it is still a wild landscape. The restored buildings of Cill Rialaig were once home to the family of Séan Ó’Connail, an illiterate Irish-speaking storyteller who was part of the oral tradition. He never left this peninsular but in retelling the stories brought to him by other travellers he journeyed, in his imagination, further than many people do in reality.
Fiona Robinson A Love Affair with the Irish Landscape: From Ballinskelligs Beach to Bolus Head Triptych, Pencil on Paper, 200x340cms, 2009
A love affair with the Irish Landscape follows a remembered journey from the ruins of an ancient Abbey, sitting perilously close to the encroaching sea, on Ballinkelligs beach, along winding lanes, past Cill Rialaig up to the top of Bolus Head. From this vantage point you can see the Skelligs, two outcrops of rock eight miles out to sea, on one of which is the remains of a sixth century monastery. The monks who lived there then were living on the edge of the known world, looking out over the Atlantic they were staring into the abyss. Each retelling of a story, each repeated journey, each new layer of drawing is different. This work is part of a continuum connecting me to the memories of all those other journeys through these spaces."
Fiona Robinson Transition 3 (detail) Drawing 5. 180 x 120 cm pencil on paper 2009
"Curated jointly by Exeter Artspace and Rita Parente of submit2gravity London, this project is in response to the prison cells underneath Rougemont Castle in Exeter. My drawings were installed in the holding cells under the castle which measure 6′ x 3′ and are a response to the space, or lack of it, to the marking of time, the lack of natural light and the echoing sound."
Fiona Robinson Studio at Weymouth, Dorset, UK
"The works on paper, with the marks rubbed back and laid bare, have a quietness about them, imparted by the apparent fragility of the pencil line, but the line also has a tensile strength that is insistent. The images stay in the mind. The generosity of scale of the canvases allows the lines to flow within the layers of paint imbuing them with a lyricism that suggests reverie. The process involves adjusting the memory, adjusting the line, allowing the formal requirements of the piece to take over from the initial free mark making, and then redrawing the route. Finally some parts of the image achieve a greater significance whilst preserving the faintest marks so that they stay in the mind like an unrecalled memory. Each piece of work records the progress of the drawing as well as tracing the route of the original walk. They are a sequence of remembering and forgetting."
I've been so fortunate to run into Mary Judge, and her seductively intimate drawings and sculpture. We met in New York in 2008 following the opening of a large exhibit I was in at OK Harris -- along with mutual friends Joanne Mattera, Julie Gross and Margaret Neill. Mary creates abstract drawings on paper, canvas, stone and poured concrete forms.
Mary Judge Trebisonda Spazio per l'Arte Contemporanea, Perugia Italy 2002
"This former school in Perugia Italy provided a completely neutral environment and I proposed a stark, open presentation of works. Here one can see two spolvero drawings made directly on the wall, and a concrete floor piece."
She uses the ancient Italian copying techinique of spolvero, or "dusting", to build line and hue with dry pigment, imparting an earthy, even primitive essence to her conceptual surfaces, and shapes.
Mary Judge Exotic Hex Series
"These were inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. Here a single design form is rotated around the center point of a circle. Size of works: 36x36"
She has worked also with Wildwood Press, creating amazing relief and photo litho prints on handmade paper. I am continually moved by the depth and sensitivity of this beautiful work -- her mark, her materials, her process.
Mary Judge at Wildwood Press,
Mary is an Associate Professor of Art at Parson's School of Visual Arts, and she is represented by Gallery Joe in Philadelphia, Metaphor Contemporary Art in Brooklyn and Dieu Donne Papermill in New York.
She is the recipient of a Dieu Donne Papermill Workspace Grant; NEA Mid Atlantic Foundation for the Arts Grant Works on Paper; Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant; New Jersey Council on the Arts Individual Artist's Grant. She has also been awarded residencies at Concrete Laboratory Samsoe, Denmark; Valparaiso Foundation for the Art, Mojacar, Spain; Fondazione Marguerita Arp ; and Tel Aviv Artist's Studios . Her work is included in collections here and abroad including The Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; The British Museum, London, England; and the Neburger Bauman Collection.
Mary Judge at Wildwood Press
In her own words:
"The drawn image is a beginning - a first attempt that can be tentative and impulsive. The fragility of paper, the medium's usual support, and the visible tracks of the artist's hand combine to create a privileged space occupied by no other medium. More immediate and less controlled than in painting or sculpture, the artist's marks are fully exposed in drawing.
"Works displayed includes spolvero drawings on panel, canvas and Carrara marble chosen by the artist on site at a local quarry. The largest piece was trucked down and placed outside the gallery. I worked over the surfaces of the various pieces using a black powdered pigment with various stencils. The second part of the show took place at the Spa, Villa Undulna, where we placed several pieces outdoors and also hung a group of small drawings."
Mary Judge Metaphor Contemporary Art, New York NY 2005
"The high ceilings, great light and concrete floor inspired me to propose a large-scale cast concrete sculpture, my first made in the US, which was sold to a major collection. Also included were works on paper and canvas and panel. "
"Shifts in scale and new techniques also changed the environment for presentation and in turn helped elevate the status of the medium within the institutions of the art world.
Steven Alexander installation, The World at Large, Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, Housto
Running into Steven Alexander -- his eloquent work and words, and sensitive, generous nature -- has been very special. Steven makes abstract paintings characterized by luminous color, sensuous surfaces and simple geometric configurations. He is an Associate Professor of Art at Marywood University, and has been Artist in Residence at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy and Visiting Artist/Professor of Art at Parsons School of Design in New York, Marywood University/France, Anjou & Paris, and Austin Community College, Austin, Texas. Steven is represented by Gremillion & Co. Fine Art, Houston, Denise Bibro Platform, New York City and Ruth Morpeth Gallery, Hopewell, NJ.
In his own words:
"Sometimes the studio can be a fairly raucous place. Sure, there is plenty of time spent sitting, staring at stuff in progress, waiting for the motivation, energy or clarity required to make the next move.
Steven Alexander Meteor Beach, 2008, 96 x 96 inches, acrylic on 4 canvases (Hines Collection, NYC )
Color operates in this work and in the world as a kind of pure energy, dynamic, capricious, evocative. The surfaces emphasize the sensual rather than analytical nature of the painting process, and attest to the pervasive presence of time. Within the structures of the work, archetypal relations of male/female, earth/sky, internal/external are inevitably implied; not as opposing forces, but as interdependent aspects of an animate whole. In this sense, the paintings might be regarded as open-ended cosmologies, or as chunks of raw reality, unencumbered.
Of course, the paintings are not landscapes - strictly places.
Willy Bo Richardson Confluence, Oil on Canvas, 53 x 114 inches, 2001
When I was a child I remember being mesmerized by the blur of colors from the vantage point of a speeding car. Along with the blur and the speed was always a feeling of freedom. In this same way, whenever taking a flight, not only would I leave the earth physically, but on an emotional level gain distance on life.
My paintings give me the same experience. My painting brings perspective. In some ways it’s like creating a window. One can put this window anywhere. No need to move somewhere to get this view. But the window is not necessarily looking out on a beach scene, or a forest scene, or a mountain scene. It’s actually looking out on a “distance scene”, a scene where one has space from their personal life. "
Willy Bo Richardson, 2009