Sunday, June 22, 2008

Slacker Relativism vs. Courageous Relativism

The following was an unsolicited morning thought, and is still quite rough and redundant:

When relativism is experienced as a real interactive state, it expands value. It expands outward, increasing the range and the complexity of our comprehension, so that more things have greater value to us; more things have multiple value, and malleable value.

Relativism does not reduce value at all. That which holds intensity in one context, still carries value in that context, and possibly has added/other values when considered in other ways.

I believe we are overwhelmed by relativism's expanded universe of comprehension, and we deal with this by constricting its complexities and possibilities. We develop theories of containment, which restore our illusion of understanding. We reduce perceptions to a manageable range of possibility. Within this compressed and shallow context, value becomes perverted and chaotic; it becomes unrelated and valueless.

Anything goes. We introduce the crap factor of relativism...I'm specifically thinking of art here.Relativism does not diminish value, but a cowardly relationship to relativism does.

It takes patience and courage and effort to fully engage the world from a relativistic perspective.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Scott Anderson

From Chicago gallery Kavi Gupta's site.

Scott Anderson, Seance, oil on canvas mounted to board, 2007, 76” x 95”
Scott Anderson, Sanktaj^o, oil on canvas mounted to board, 2007, 76” x 95”
Scott Anderson, Summoned, oil and spray paint on canvas mounted to board, 2008, 60” x 72”

These paintings seem really mighty. The gallery site shows earlier work, and I like seeing such directed progress in such short time. This work seemed to mature and focus very quickly.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Steven LaRose

Steven LaRose of Fish or Cut Bait is on fire with his newest work. His blog is rolling along well too, with some great association tag both in the posts and comments. I can't believe I've not posted his work before now.


Christopher Lowrance of MW Capacity has posted a q+a interview with yours truly. I've been enjoying the dialogue over there, and I really appreciate how Chris framed my work in this posting.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Varda Caivano

36 x 58 cm , 2005

45.5 x 61 cm, 2004

40 x 50 cm, 2004

Images from Victoria-Miro Gallery in London.

Jennifer Higgie in Freize issue #93, 2005, repeated here in entirety, because it's so good:

Painting as a site of struggle, doubt and pleasure.

Varda Caivano’s first solo show at the Victoria Miro Gallery comprised eight small, untitled paintings, almost all of which are modest, awkward and appealing. In these times of bombast and appalling certainty Caivano’s tentative handling of paint indicates something even more refreshing than the strange, clumsy lyricism that her images proffer: an interest in doubt as an end in itself. It is very pleasant to be in the presence of paintings that refuse so stringently to be bossy.

None of which, I hasten to add, implies that Caivano is either interested in or perpetuates any idea of Bad Painting, a school (if it can be so called) that tends to leap off the springboard of irony and world-weariness into a stagnant pool of tired ideas. Her imagination is too restless and her belief in the possibilities of painting too sincere for such game-playing. The infinite choice of possible combinations of line and colour still available, though, of course can be stifling. This is, perhaps, the central, anxious paradox that lies at the heart of not only Caivano’s practice but any creative act. Where to begin? Where to stop? What is there left to do and discover?

There is something unreconstructed in Caivano’s approach, a sense that decades of theory about the life and death of painting have somehow passed her by while she was concentrating on, say, how a smudge of blue might best interact with green cross-hatching. In some ways her painting evokes the earnest middle youth of British Modernism – Paul Nash’s damp, brownish palette and rump-like hills fused with a blustery abstraction, in particular, spring to mind; in other ways her paintings look like nothing but themselves. Each one she makes tends to reflect on the world as a place of infinite textures, tones and moods that evoke feelings which are impossible to replicate (though it may be worth trying). Accidents of discovery are often more interesting than the impulse that initially encouraged the artist to stumble forth. In this Caivano’s paintings are harried with choice: under-painting is exhausted, scratched, rubbed, re-worked and finally painted over, as if in a fit of pique. Grubby blues, pinks, black and ochres are blasted over the surface in a way that makes me suspect that she would quite like to annihilate what she has made but can’t quite let go of the pleasing marks she is attempting to destroy. I do not like to think of the arguments that must occur between painter and paint about when to let it rest.

Caivano never lets you forget the physical aspects of what she is doing. Her work is both illusionistic – she plays with quite conventional ideas of perspective and depth – and viscerally anti-illusionistic: she makes no bones about the fact that all she is doing is putting pigment on a surface. Yet despite the sense of struggle that emanates from each painting (which has, I suspect, something to do with the artist’s suspicion of quick, disposable beauty), each tussle is different. Some of her paintings evoke the landscape more literally than others. One recent study in lilac and sap-green simultaneously intimates watery depths threatening to flood lush fields and a simple arrangement of lines and tonal shifts. Another looks like both a flattened insect – its body delineated in dirty cross-hatching, its wings a nearly transparent lilac, pink and dry green – and a crude aerial map of, say, some lush tropical tributary: echoes of landscape in recumbent forms. Another untitled painting in pinky browns, umber and indigo evokes both an underwater world of seashells and fishy flesh and the kind of exercises in abstraction from 30 years ago you now find hanging in second-hand shops high above shelves of dusty books.

There is a sense in Caivano’s paintings of something searched for and not quite found. This, conversely, is their great appeal. For many of the above reasons, I rather selfishly hope that she doesn’t find what she’s looking for.
Jennifer Higgie