When faced with writing an artist statement I often become paralyzed. I ask myself what my work is all about, and more often than not come up empty-handed, or more specifically, empty-minded. My work seems to be about everything and about nothing. In trying to explain it, words don’t so much fail me as they keep missing the mark, and I am made aware of what poor tools they are for artists to use in describing their artistic production. To resort to an old cliché, a picture (or twenty) is worth a thousand words.
Trying to come up with a concise verbal description of what I do is discouraging at best. Add to that the words of Theodor Adorno that “everything about art has become problematic: it’s inner life, it’s relation to society, even its right to exist”, and I feel like quitting art altogether. Yet, I keep making “the stuff”. And unlike trying to come up with words about it, making art and seeking it out is not discouraging at all, au contraire, it is life affirming. It might be that in the end, current theory notwithstanding, the medium really is the message...
The strategies I have used to talk about my work in the past have always involved my talking around the work. I find that doing this gets me to the core of the work better than trying to talk directly about it. I’ve decided to, once again, take that tack and write a bit about the process of my work instead of trying to describe its content, for its content is partly born out of process.
I am essentially a printmaker, even though it has been a while since I have engaged purely in the making of prints. For the past few years I have mostly painted, collaged, and made a book that took me three years to complete. But the reason I think of myself as primarily a printmaker is because no matter what medium I am involved with, I approach all image/art-making with methodological strategies similar to those used to produce a print. For example, when I paint, I don’t feel myself to be a painter, I “produce a painting”, I don’t paint it. I invent barriers for myself: pictorial, conceptual and physical constraints that, like the process of printmaking, have to be dealt with and which add a distancing element to the process of painting. Using this methodology I find that I end up constructing my paintings piece-meal, not unlike the production of a print. This strategy allows me to distance myself from my imagery and to view my content more objectively. The content becomes part of the process and vice versa (no news here).
I find that I cannot make art if I don’t include in the making of it this kind of distancing process. My work looks the way it does precisely because of such strategies. The initial content is born of life experiences, but the final product is a result of thought and emotion tempered and transformed by process; a process that because of its “stop and go” approach ends up giving my work its look.