Sunday, October 21, 2012

Reflection and Perception

Matrix, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, © 2012 Diane McGregor

The last two paintings I've completed -- this one, Matrix, and the one from an earlier post, Sunyata (Emptiness) -- have been very difficult and labor-intensive projects. I've decided that from now on, the grid paintings need to stay in a small format -- I'm figuring no larger than 24 inches square. 

Although there is an encompassing shimmer that is lovely to behold in this larger work, I faced some tough challenges that I didn't expect when I decided to increase the scale of my grid paintings.  When painting the smaller format grids, the whole painting can easily be "unified," a quality I strive for so that no part of the composition weighs more heavily than another part.  Working large, this is an almost impossible feat, and requires hours and hours of just staring at the painting.  To find the right rhythm and balance is an arduous and not very pleasant task when confronted with a large arena like these four foot canvases.  The extreme sensitivity it takes to make the decisions is psychologically and visually exhausting. 

Part of the reason why I love painting grids is the freedom from decisions.  Because I am using a "ready-made" compositional device -- the grid -- the parameters and rules are set up before beginning the work.  My only decisions (after choosing the color palette) then become confined to each rectangle of the grid -- tiny decisions which eventually accumulate into one harmonious and subtly balanced image.

My plans for more ambitious work now involve using series of panels that would make up a larger whole, an idea that will make each smaller panel part of a larger, more dynamic image.  The arrangement of smaller, square canvases will also emphasize the conceptual use of the grid as a compositional schema.



Kesha Bruce said...

"...requires hours and hours of just staring at the painting. "

I'm all too familiar with this task. Wither larger works, there are times when I wonder if I don't actually spend more time just looking than actual painting.

Bravo to you for rising to the challenge.

Diane McGregor said...

Thanks, Kesha. I am also realizing that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better (like I was taught in art school 30 years ago). There is an intimacy that I like in the smaller grids.

Dara Mark said...

From what appears in this small reproduction, this is your most accomplished painting of all. The subtle rhythms draw me in and I could spend hours looking, a great feat for such a "simple" work. My advice: don't be so hasty to give up on these larger works just because they are exhausting. You are actually creating something compelling and powerful here.

Diane McGregor said...

Thank you so much,Dara. You have made me reconsider. Perhaps I can find a way to compromise! I appreciate your input.

Jill Christian said...

Diane, I agree -- don't jump away. (I can understand, as I'm facing similar difficulties working larger. It starts to become an exercise in stamina and concentration!). But you might discover ways to shift how you work on the larger paintings. Perhaps have smaller paintings in progress as you also work on the larger ones? In any case, I love these images.

Diane McGregor said...

Jill, thanks. I do work on smaller pieces simultaneously, and in my most recent small pieces I may have discovered a possible solution in getting myself out of the labyrinth.

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

As someone who was also guided in art school to believe that bigger is better - well, I understand what you're feeling.
The question in my mind would be (I know you've thought of this): Will smaller works using the grid have the same impact, and would that matter?
Since starting encaustic a couple of years ago, I have been painting smaller, which has been quite satisfying, surprisingly. I like the intimacy of smaller paintings. But there is something about large scale paintings...I say that having just seen Cy Twombly's gallery at the Menil!
I look forward to seeing where you take these new ideas, Diane. Your work is a joy to see in cyberspace, and I can only imagine how wonderful it is in person.

Diane McGregor said...

Many thanks, Stephanie. The smaller scale pieces definitely have a more intimate aura about them - I think they draw you in more than the larger pieces. The other consideration I have is that when you post images in cyberspace, the small ones have a much greater impact. I like to share my work on Facebook, on my website, and in this blog, and the small pieces reflect my overall "message" a lot better....So many variables to consider!