Thursday, December 9, 2010


Vidya, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

I want the light

locked inside to awaken:
crystalline flower,
wake as I do:

eyelids raise the curtain
of endless earthen time
until deeply buried eyes
flash clear enough again
to see their own clarity.

Pablo Neruda, Poem Number XII, from Stones of the Sky, Jame Nolan, trans.
(Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1987)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Yatra, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

"Only dead paintings are executed. Living ones come into being. They are a record of decisions; the sum of actions taken and reactions to them, of judgements made and of the reconsiderations and revisions that those initial judgements prompt. Painting is a process; painting is doubt; painting is the suspension of disbelief and the physical affirmation of formal and material intuitions for which there is no prior justification. Painting is what painters do while others argue about painting." -- Robert Storr, in Cage: Six Paintings by Gerhard Richter, p 59.

As I paint, I notice that it is always a process of creation and obliteration -- it's a constant give and take, choosing which marks and passages to keep, and which ones need to be removed, scraped back, or covered over. I must embrace the totality of the painting as a whole. Only then will I be willing to sacrifice a beautiful passage in order to achieve the absolute vision I have of the harmony and balance that each composition contains.

"...As with a field seasonally put to the torch and ploughed in preparation for new crops, a painting from which every vital sign appears to have been removed may be precisely that in which painting's mutable but ineradicable fecundity most startlingly shows itself." (ibid., p 60)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Exhibition Installation at Smink

These are images of my solo show at Smink, in Dallas.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Nirjhara, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor (Private Collection, Tucson, AZ)

October Moon

Moving through transitory banks of ice
through the closing hues of night,
commanding stars to glitter;
dawn to blush.
A glow that used to emanate
from clear and lucid eyes.
But here! We are, fifty years later, shadowed in emotion.
Tasting the cool night air together.
We have collided,
against our own eternal epiphany:
I am at the beginning of life
and at its end.
Like a reflection of waves
peering back through life's skeletons
that stretch past all horizons
and sensing the words of the Great Mother
And I see the constant light of purity
In the darkness of the earth ~ at night

-- Tom Sheldon--

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Toward a Romantic Minimalism

Romanticism is precisely situated neither in choice of subject nor exact truth, but in the way of feeling. - Baudelaire

Sutra, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

As I've developed my work over the past couple of years, going from very smoothly blended and luminous imagery to more textured, painterly surfaces and a focus on the underlying structure of the grid, I have sought to clarify exactly what kind of "ism" my work might fall into. My current paintings are minimalist in concept (the grid, repetition, non-objective), yet quite painterly and romantic in execution. Romanticism in visual art emphasized the new prominence of the brushstroke and impasto, the artist's free handling of paint, expressiveness of mood and color, intuition and emotion. Lyrical or painterly abstraction was introduced as a response to minimal art and the rigorous formalism of Judd -- the artist's touch is always visible in this type of painting. In 1967, The Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia curated a show entitled, "A Romantic Minimalism," which included work by Brice Marden, Carl Andre, and Ralph Humphrey. These decidedly "minimalist" artists never abandoned the surface quality of the object. Brice Marden discusses this in a wonderful interview in Tate Etc (see, especially Marden's discussion of Rothko's work). Minimalism was a reaction against the painterly focus of Abstract Expressionism, but some of the "minimalist" artists working in the 60s and 70s never abandoned the presence of the artist's touch.

So I have been thinking of my work in terms of Romantic Minimalism - I use the grid, repetition, a limited palette, and no specific references to nature. However, the painting seduces with it's complex woven textures and mysterious layers of color, and I am thoroughly engaged by the gesture and quality of the individual brushstroke and its emotive and contemplative content.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Jaya II, oil on canvas, 15 x 12 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world. -- Marcel Proust

With each painting I create, I come closer to a subconscious Ideal. Yet, this is a fleeting gesture -- I no sooner finish a painting than I want to move on, forward, in my yearning for the Ideal. No one can help us through it, or to it; it must be discovered for ourselves and by ourselves.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Rajin, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

"The simple aesthetic requirement by which art should picture the inexpressible developed into a highly complex and comprehensive repertory of artistic principles and technical rules. One of the most significant sources for Southern Song poetry criticism, Yan Yu (1180-1235), defined the poetic as follows:
poetry excels by its transparent luminosity.... It is like echo in the air, color in form, the moon reflected in water, or an image in a mirror; words have limits, but the meaning is inexhaustible.
A painting that matches this goal does not simply illustrate poems by means of narrative motifs easy to recognize; rather, by its subject matter, composition, and ink technique, it carries an expressive charge beyond its forms so that one can recognize moods and an emotional atmosphere that are of a sympathetic nature as in a poem."

Above quote taken from Dreaming the Southern Song Landscape by Valerie Malenfer Ortiz, page 65 (Brill, 1999).

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Bodhana, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

All landscapes have a history, much the same as people exist within cultures, even tribes. There are distinct voices, languages that belong to particular areas. There are voices inside rocks, shallow washes, shifting skies; they are not silent. And there is movement, not always the violent motion of earthquakes associated with the earth's motion or the steady unseen swirl through the heavens, but other motion, subtle, unseen, like breathing. A motion, a sound, that if you allow your own inner workings to stop long enough, moves into the place inside you that mirrors a similar landscape; you too can see it, feel it, hear it, know it.

-- Joy Harjo, from Secrets from the Center of the World

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Meditative Surface

"A painting with a meditative surface turns in on itself..."
-- Carter Ratcliff

Bandhu, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

Through the language of repetition and the grid, my work explores the physical presence of oil paint from a minimalist perspective. Formlessness rises within the grid -- there are no lines, no edges, no allusions. Gesture and brushstroke arise as agents of introspection and quiet contemplation. Artifacts of composition are carefully considered, and are either retained or released in service to the harmony of the whole. Within a matrix of layered brushstrokes, the weights of color and texture, light and dark, are delicately balanced and intuitively measured. The lush, deliberate surfaces of these paintings convey both a meditative stillness and an energy force of controlled chaos.

Monday, July 12, 2010

New Moon

Devamuni, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

The moon was new yesterday, an auspicious day to finish another major painting, Devamuni.

I am honored to announce that I have joined forces with SMINK in Dallas, a company that specializes in exquisite contemporary furniture and objects from the Como Region of Italy. They will be expanding their fine art division, and I am looking forward to showing my work with them.

I had a lovely studio visit with Jennifer Smink last week, and this painting was still in progress during our meeting. Having just completed it yesterday, it will be one of the paintings I will be showing at Smink later this fall in a solo exhibition.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Flowers

The pain will be born from that look cast inside yourself, and this pain will make you go beyond the veil.
-- Rumi

Suma III, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

The surface
of the water

mirrors many things.
-- Masami Kato (1825)

Suma II, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

...[T]he inner risks to the psyche that the best artists face every time they make work are much harder to quantify and to judge with dubious terms like "good" or "bad," "success" or "failure." This is the inner dimension of art, far beyond the reach of critics and curators. It is the path of practice, of doing, of riding the crest of the wave of the moment with no thought as to where it will land, or whether there are rocks just below the surface, or if the Self will survive the fall. This constant falling, the incessant quest for some unknown thing beneath, beyond, or just out of reach...
-- Bill Viola, "Artist to Artist," in Art in America, February 2010, p 64.

Suma I, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

On the whole, however, modern art is not a denial but an affirmation. Like most of our scientists, the process of disintegration or analysis is not a wanton act of destruction but part of a process for the evolving of more comprehensive synthesis. And therefore modern artists have not left us merely with the members of the body of art strewn about, but they have reassembled them and revivified that body with their own breath of life. In short, they have attempted to regain a synthesis as complete as that of the primitive, based of course, upon contemporary considerations and point of view.
-- Mark Rothko, The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art (Yale University Press, 2004), page 61.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Meditative Landscape

Marava, oil on canvas, 48x48 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

My work engages landscape without referencing specific places or times. I work very hard at keeping direct landscape objects out of the work -- my project is for my work to be reflective of a place in a spiritual and emotional context.

This is Marava. Four feet square, a large canvas to cover. Very thoughtfully considered, my technique is glacially slow, but quite meditative, and when the painting is finally finished one can see the energy of my efforts, the moments of decision, the different hours and moods, the meditative mantra of the brushstroke.

This is one of the most fascinating aspects of being a painter -- watching these moments at the conclusion of a painting, after sometimes waiting months (in this case, with Marava, it took 3 months) for the painting to be finished. The final stages of a painting are always my favorite times to work: it's when the painting starts to sing, the composition clicks, and you know resonance is approaching.

"Marava" is a Sanskrit word meaning "forming or situated in a desert." I kept thinking "desert" as I added brushstroke upon brushstroke to the canvas. I live here, in a beautiful, solitary desert, with only the wind and the birds -- somehow, I feel this painting is connected to a primal knowledge of land, space, sky.

Below are a couple of details of this painting, to show the textures and layers of oil paint.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New Work

Rishi, oil on canvas, 15 x 12 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

"Sanskrit is a language specifically developed to bring out various powerful sound vibrations. Every letter in the Sanskrit alphabet has some beautiful, cosmic vibration.... Sanskrit is considered to be the most ancient language in the world." -- Sri Swami Satchidananda

Beginning with 2010, all of my paintings will carry Sanskrit titles. This decision has come about after a good deal of soul searching and listening to a higher calling. My paintings, as they've developed, have embraced a sort of universal openess and freedom, and a title can sometimes limit the boundaries of the image. I want more poetry than "Untitled," however. Joseph Campbell called Sanskrit "the great spiritual language of the world." I agree. Sanskrit words have a lilting, floating quality that I admire -- the sounds of the words themselves have a certain beauty and poetry to them. If a viewer digs a little deeper and finds out the translation of the word, perhaps he will come away with an even deeper appreciation of the imagery. But it is not necessary to know the meaning of the word in order to spiritually connect to the painting. I choose the words as much for their musical quality as I do for their meaning. I want to leave an air of mystery surrounding the work, and the title is just a furtive guide to the relationship between the image and the title.

I chose "Rishi" as the title for the painting above. A "Rishi" is a saint or guru, of which the Hindu and Buddhist cultures have many, each with their own individual symbols and names. This piece is actually one of a series of three that I'm working on.

I selected the word "Sandhya" for the title of the painting below. It translates as "twilight." I was thinking about twilight -- the delicate, resonant light of the early morning and the early evening -- as I was working on this piece.

Sandhya, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Thinking of Summer

Induja, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean --
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Poem from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver (1992: Beacon Press).

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Arjuni, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

"What is the Great Seal, the Mahamudra? Basically, it means that all of phenomena, all that is experienced by the mind, is the symbol of itself. There is no duality whatsoever between what you experience and who you are. There is no duality whatsoever between mind and its projections. There is no duality whatsoever between phenomena and appreciation. In all of reality there is no particular break. It is totally sealed and complete, altogether. There are no second thoughts. That is the Mahamudra.

"To the mind of a student, this is a terrifying prospect, and at the same time it opens the mind completely. It is terrifying in the sense that, on hearing these words, one begins to feel the quality of the mind itself. In other words, mind is seeing mind. If there is a residue of fear or struggle or egotism, the mind begins to move or shake. From that a quality of paranoia arises. That paranoia is this very mind, which we call nowness, or things as they are. And according to the Mahamudra, this mind has never been corrupted."

--Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin, reprinted in Shambhala Sun, January 2010, page 96.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A New Direction

"There's no point in being an artist if you have to subscribe to the actual moulds people would like you to inherit." -- Eduardo Paolozzi

"After an insight occurs, one must check it out to see if the connections genuinely make sense. The painter steps back from the canvas to see whether the composition works, the poet rereads the verse with a more critical eye, the scientist sits down to do the calculations or run the experiments. Most lovely insights never go any farther, because under the cold light of reason fatal flaws appear. But if everything checks out, the slow and often routine work of elaboration begins.

"There are four main conditions that are important during this stage of the process. First of all, the person must pay attention to the developing work, to notice when new ideas, new problems, and new insights arise out of the interaction with the medium. Keeping the mind open and flexible is an important aspect of the way creative persons carry on their work. Next, one must pay attention to one's goals and feelings, to know whether the work is indeed proceeding as intended. The third condition is to keep in touch with domain knowledge, to use the most effective techniques, the fullest information, and the best theories as one proceeds. And finally, especially in the later stages of the process, it is important to listen to colleagues in the field. By interacting with others involved with similar problems, it is possible to correct a line of solution that is going in the wrong direction, to refine and focus one's ideas, and to find the most convincing mode of presenting them, the one that has the best chance of being accepted."

-- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity (NY: HarperPerennial, 1997), pages 104-105.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Square One

Chant I, oil on canvas, 12x12 inches, © 2009 Diane McGregor

"Art in everyday life seems to be our destination. The question is, how do we begin? Our main purpose is to develop an understanding of life and art. If we don't have a life of our own, we don't have art of our own, so we end up discussing the question of what is life -- which is art, naturally. Life is based on various concepts and ideas, such as life being a big drama, a fantastic showpiece, an absolute torture chamber, or just gray. We have all kinds of ideas about it. But there seems to be a problem when we try to reshape the world. We don't reshape the world haphazardly, of course; we reshape it in accord with our beliefs and our dreams. So the world is reshaped according to our own ideas and the way we want it to be....

"Obviously, we must think first before we do. But the question is more complex: how to think, what to think, why to think, what is 'to think'?...The thinking process has to be directed into a certain approach. That does not mean that your thinking process should be in accord with certain dogma, philosophy, or concepts. Instead, one has to know the thinker itself. So we are back to square one, the thinker itself: who or what thinks, and what is the thought process?...

Chant II, oil on canvas, 12x12 inches, © 2009 Diane McGregor

"Any work of art is expressing ourselves in particular terms and concepts....What convinces you, if you are uncertain, that a work of art is a real expression of yourself? Or is a work of art something to make sure that the rest of the world is convinced about you, so that in turn you yourself find ground to exist?...

"Back to square one. That seems to be the starting point of any genuine expressions we might express. Genuine expressions have to be self-existing, born within one. So if you are going to express such genuine expressions, you have to get back to genuine ground. And so far as we are concerned, at this point the only genuine ground we have is back to square one."

The above quotes are taken from True Perception: The Path of Dharma Art by Chogyam Trungpa (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2008, pages 137-140).