Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I have been working on a talk I will give on Sunday, September 20th, at the Preston Contemporary Art Center. The talk will be a mini-
retrospective of the development of my art, and in going through more than 20 years of work, I am struck by the logical evolution of my technique, the enduring inspiration of the natural world, and the explorations of ambiguous perspectives of scale.

Lyra, mixed media on paper, 4 x 4 inches, © 1989 Diane McGregor

My first serious body of work out of college was mixed-media on paper. I was using watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil and gouache to create meticulous small drawings. These pieces were only about 3 to 4 inches square. It was necessary for me to work small because I was traveling and living abroad during those years. I developed a cross-hatching technique that involved a slow, labor-intensive process of building up layers of ink over watercolor washes. I was making abstractions using astronomical photographs as a visual reference. I was fascinated by the way the macroscopic universe mirrored microscopic worlds. My images could be inspired from galaxies and nebulae, yet relate to forms that could be seen through a microscope.

Labyrinth, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, © 1995 Diane McGregor

I started painting in oils again in 1992 (this was what my formal training was in). I was inspired by living in Hawaii, on the ocean, listening to the waves tumble in at night, watching the water and it's myriad forms during the day. I became interested in illusion, luminous form, and I continued exploring the micro and macro themes. Spirals and wave forms dominated the imagery.

Morning Sounds, oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, © 2001 Diane McGregor

When I moved to New Mexico in 2001, the light flooded my senses, and the spirals unraveled and became veils. I was also enchanted with experiencing the four seasons again. This is one of the first paintings I created in my Santa Fe studio. The palette reflects the delicate pinks and golds of the springtime desert landscape.

Neshama, oil on canvas, 18 x 17 inches, © 2005 Diane McGregor

I started to introduce geometric elements into the veil paintings, and I became interested in using the grid.

Sahara, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, © 2007 Diane McGregor

In March of 2006, I went to the Sahara desert to watch a total eclipse of the sun. I camped for a week with a group of Tuareg nomads. The experience astonished me and when I came back to the studio the veil imagery had been swept out of me. I began to work exclusively with the clean lines of geometry. I felt the grid was the answer to expressing the essence of Nature.

Jade Mirror, oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches, © 2008 Diane McGregor

Eventually, atmospheric mists began to dissolve the boundaries of the geometric forms, and my paintings began to be more about atmosphere and color. The initial underpainting was built up very slowly with grids of horizontal and vertical brushstrokes, which eventually became so small and smooth that they dissolved into luminous clouds of color and light.

My current work has come full circle: Like those early pen and ink drawings, my oil painting technique today requires a very slow and deliberate buildup of cross-hatched brushstrokes. The work has become more painterly and there is a lot of texture. I love the flickering sensation of light and color that the layered brushstrokes create on the picture plane. The work is more minimal, and references nature and the landscape with an Asian aesthetic.

Andromeda, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, © 2009 Diane McGregor

Building up paintings with the grids of brushstrokes has become a meditative practice for me -- it is a slow and labor-intensive process which allows my thoughts to wander into realms of transcendence and infinity. This is my most recent painting, Andromeda. The lack of lines, hard edges, and definitive boundaries imparts a dream-like quality to the painting. The ambiguous perspective invites the viewer to float in resonant, shimmering color fields.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Mondrian

Piet Mondrian, Composition, 1929, oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

"Some of the most apparently radical aspects of Mondrian's working method in New York he had in fact refined for decades. Take his practice of working on a table and using the easel primarily to display paintings or even simply as a bare architectural element. With Mondrian, as with Jackson Pollock, working on a horizontal surface...was a crucial means of weakening, though not completely denying, the gravitational sense of top and bottom that underpins all figurative painting."
--Mondrian: The Transatlantic Paintings by Harry Cooper and Ron Spronk, Yale University Press (page 47)

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Double Line and Yellow, 1932, oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm.
National Galleries of Scotland.