See Allyson Clay’s new work in the LANGUAGES issue.
Paint can be put on a canvas in many ways: tenderly, brutally, sensually,
or just plain ugly. —John C. Pellew
And finally, squeezed in at the top of the canvas there is a thin strip of a
rather nondescript, umberish brown which seems to be holding
all the rest in place. —Jon Thompson
My recent body of paintings, collectively titled GroundSplatPink (2013/14), stems from my longtime fascination with how paintings, particularly abstract paintings, are written about and described. Such descriptions are ubiquitous in art history texts and catalogue essays dealing with modern and contemporary painting. Books about painting tend to concentrate on surface treatments. (Interesting writing about painting can also be found occasionally in “how to” books on painting.) These new works engage abstract geometrical shapes to conjure minimalism, modernism, the urban, demarcations, and limitations. The words used in these new paintings struggle against and actively form their constrictions. The resulting word-shapes are intended to both interrupt and co-produce the paintings’ forms and surfaces.
The most influential text for me in these new paintings is the writing of Roald Nasgaard in Abstract Painting in Canada, a book that sets up a historical trajectory with regional sensitivity. Nasgaard’s writing focuses on imparting the physicality and sensuality of the works he writes about. He loves paintings. This makes for pleasurable as well as informative reading. In my new paintings I have re-written or invented extremely condensed versions of such sensual descriptions. Although Roald Nasgaard’s writing is important, I also take from a wide range of sources. And except for one painting (SweepAndFlow where this phrase is a direct quote from Nasgaard) I don’t quote directly from sources. In each painting I tightly frame words into abstract shapes that form an intentionally awkward composition. Such awkwardness is intended as an homage to modernism’s duty to disrupt and thwart the easiness of balance and resolution. These paintings’ awkward use of vocabulary, of commentary, of composition and paint application is intended to resonate connotatively in the expanded field of art.
Image: Allyson Clay, MustardMustardViolet, 2013, oil on canvas, 76 x 61 cm