Brent Richard, I didn’t really notice but black has played a fairly consistent part in your painting, especially recently. Also, I have noticed the return to the open canvas in your work. It seems to me that both the open canvas and the increased presence of the color black coincide. Does it!
Shadows Small Version Detail, 2008
Richard Schur Right! Previously I was focused on creating something neutral. Non-color spaces that would allow the pure colors more breathing space, which would set off a feeling of openness: Maybe the breathing space is the key.
The highly pigmented thinly painted matte black fields in my recent work look very immaterial and open. Kind of optically they soak you in. So, it’s not only about creating a nocturne mood, but also about introducing another ‘opening’ not dissimilar to how I was dealing with the bare canvas.
BH I can see that! In Shadows (Study), 2008, which is quite small, the space actually has taken over much of the structure. While, say, the horizontal vertical beams account for, well… there are three horizontal bars, and two vertical bars. No actual bar runs the full length of the support. Though what I wanted to say is that despite the diminutive scale the space feels very open, again despite the strong presence of black.
The fragmented bars in Shadows, could you talk about those a little?
Richard The bars are derived from a long process of placing many layers over, and over, sometimes to create left-out spaces, sometimes consciously they become bars. This gets even more interesting when you realize a small painting on Masonite as large scale, replacing the grey colored fields – which simulate the bare canvas – by actual canvas. So something that was set as a positive shape turns into an open space – that could be called negative, but as color it often has a “positive” function within the composition. For example on the upper left, the wide horizontal bar of canvas is a left out, but optically it comes forward (in front), like a “positively” set color filed. I like the idea that really everything has meaning, so realizing a small painting as large scale should not only be about reproducing a motif, but should lead to different results, bringing in new aspects.
BH When shifting scale you are working on an image that is already quite physically there. To my mind this makes it even harder to stay fresh, and open, to keep the inventiveness alive, while keeping to what you have done already. After all, you are working with a pretty concise and resolved model.
What I notice in the larger versions is that the structure becomes even clearer: This syncopation of different color area, especially hidden and exposing around the bands, becomes much more apparent—both as color and as delicate play. This is where it seems most of the change takes place when scaling up.
Richard The image! We don’t have that word in German, but it fits—something you would see in a reproduction. OK!
What may appear grey in the draft for example the fields standing in for plain canvas, through a process, takes on a more complex turn.
In the end the scaling up offers this very literal openness, which I had planned in the draft, kept it somewhere, though had not yet realized. That step, from the little board to the large canvas, I doubt you can get working ‘alla prima’.
In the large version, the weight lies more on the play between color as material object on a material object and the modernistic aspect of color as an immaterial “color-space”, while the little ones live more on the vividness of the painting process. Both kinds show important aspects of my painting and I consider both of them as their own, standalone works.
BH When you look at a detail of the scaled up version it is very clear that there is a departure from the more gestural approach, which informed earlier work. You gradually built up to this. I remember you talking about pushing harder down on the tape when you were here in Tokyo last time. The opposite happened: After your stay in The States things seemed to loosen up. And then, all of a sudden, you went back to a very much hard edge approach. There are no drips or seeps under the tape, which was, for a while, the hallmark of your work, somehow between the hard and the soft.
For me, the harder ‘push down’ has given rise to an emphasis to ‘surface and paint container’ as markers for the play of emotion and a greater dynamic arrest. The gesture ‘as a general reading’ is loosing foot. The containers are harder. But also there are new aspects of the structure that hint to illusion. You seem fixed that the illusion remains about the interplay of flat shapes working this, especially now, through strong, even if often broken, vertical and horizontals playing the different planes.
Midnite Run, Installation, 2008
Richard You could discuss a lot about gesture, painterliness, and–even more interesting for me–clarity. But what interests me most is the inner logic, the making of an artwork that feels natural, obvious, and is logical. Attached is an image of the Study, and another of the final version of “Midnite Run“. In the study there is a rougher dark blue field in the lower middle, below the yellow ocre. This happened very naturally when creating the composition and—important, I DECIDED to leave it, because it worked well within the composition. The decision has a function within my system of balancing out the composition. I was curious if that would work as well in the large painting, and it did. You can’t see it in the jpeg, but it also works well because the blue field has different haptical qualities: The layer is visibly much thicker, a bit more glossy than the yellow, and you can see more brushstrokes, which makes an interesting contrast to the flatly painted and more immaterial feeling yellow field. Which brings us back to the little painting: Also here it worked through the strong contrast of the material aspect in addition to the color contrast of the blue and yellow field. So it was logical for me to keep that aspect and translate it into the formal language of the large scale. It sounds simple, but it’s hard to gain: every little thing you’re doing should make sense.