Persimmon Life Studies

A Place of Ritual – Patricia Zarate

Slide Slam, 2009 variable

Brent: Out of location, a thing found – wonders in ways that form a new thing, in a different location – this is generally how I sense your various projects working.

Patricia: It is my experience of a location or an object in a place that is important to me. I think that I’ve been concerned with taking an experience – a place in time, perception – a feeling or idea and translating or transforming that into a physical object. The installation I made at The Queens Museum in New York is an early example of how I translate my experiences into object. I was still working exclusively in black and white and the imagery was representational. At the time, I City Revisted - detailhad been making 3 x 3 inch grid-drawings on paper, each cell had a drawing. It was very graphic and I wanted to somehow translate it into a larger space. I worked in my studio trying to figure out how and what I wanted. For the exhibition I used two adjoining walls, drawing a one row grid measuring 1 x 312 inches, each alternating one-inch cell had a drawing. The placement of the work was vital, from a distance it looked like a solid line, as the viewer came closer the imagery unfolded.

Brent: The drawing’s imagery came from the urban landscape, a line made up of these tiny images, figurative formal, very delicate and elegant, that marks a space, a new thing and a ‘locational’ experience. I was looking at your installation images precisely here.
How do you find things that you may want to work with? What draws you to say looking at the clouds and crossing lines that you inevitably get living in a city that still uses overhead lines? What triggers a desire to start working with something, a very real and physical/emotional experience?

Patricia: I think what ends up in my work are things that keep coming back to me, visually and emotionally. There may be a view or scene that stands out – I may write it down or take a photo or the visual is so strong that it stays with me. It may take awhile before I do something with this visual. One of the things I’m interested in is how we see. I use my own observation and perception to explore this – I find working serially helps me in this process. One example would be the cloud and crossing wires piece you made reference to earlier, entitled Lines. It comprises eight panels, each showing passing clouds and phone wires. The wires are viewed from the same position in all the panels. In retrospect, I could have referenced the place and time this occurred, anchoring it to a local.

Brent: You did a whole bunch of serial work around “Fade” that appears to be addressing some of the conundrums around the idea of primary ‘optical’ experience. Can we get inside that personal to get a handle on this – how we see, or don’t see, or how we make use of ‘stored’ information to fill in the Yellow Fade, 2004 colored pencil on white paper, 19 x 24 inches (each)gaps?
The “Fades” seem to be dealing not only a series of events and visual harmonies but also perceptual glitches.

Patricia: Yes, the “Fade” work was important – I started using color again and I eliminated the figurative imagery but kept the grid. At the time, I was thinking about reflection and how color and light (time of day) affect how we see. Walking from my home to the studio, I’d see the same glass enclosed structures, over and over again. I started looking, really looking, at how light would reflect onto these structures and how the color of the “glass” would change. Somehow, I wanted to work with this and I decided to make the “Fade” drawings, using colored pencil on colored paper. The “optical” experience really starts happening as you look and spend time with these works. The color gradually fades away – so much that one hasOrange Red Fade, 2005 colored pencil on pink paper, 16 1/2 x 24 inches (each) to “fill in” with “stored” information from the pieces that are darker. This led me to thinking about memory and how we are aware of it or not. The work entitled Vertical Paintings addresses this and is also concerned with placement. The two parts of the piece are to be installed on different walls or in different rooms. Here you try to fill in the information from one room to the other, trying to remember if what you saw is the same as what you are seeing.

Brent: So you are saying that you engage this ritual/visual experience, take that in; conceptualize, to then get it back out as a visual thing that we can go for.
You started using long pieces of wood, why the choice ‘long’? Around the same time you are working with origami paper… You have long pieces of thin wood that you paint, and colored origami paper that you arrange, cut and put together.

Patricia: Yes, it comes from my ritual-like experiences of walking through the city; from observing the every day, the exceptional – a rainbow, the mundane – light flickering on and off, or as now on the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen I have an icon bouncing up and down. Anyway, that’s where I begin and when it is completed I place it out there for the viewer to see.
I started using long pieces of wood in 2005 by chance. A friend of mine calls them “skinnies” – I guess because they are thin. Someone in a neighboring studio was tossing some 8’ x 11/2 “ x 3/4” pieces of wood that I decided to pick up, not knowing what I would do with them. Anyway, I wrote a proposal to do a piece in New Jersey using these long pieces of wood; it was accepted and I found myself making the piece. I’ve been using this format or some variation of it, ever since. I love the size and the way they feel, the thinness and Six, 2008 (studio view) lightness. I spend a lot of time preparing them – sanding, gessoing, sanding again and finally they are ready.
These pieces tend to take a long time – I like to use thin layers of paint and build it up layer by layer. I wanted to work out ideas a little faster; I wanted a bit more flexibility. So one day I picked up a bag of origami paper in the art store. At first, I cut strips of origami paper and arranged them into squares, again another timely process. At one point, I decided not to cut the paper but rather to use full sheets or join two sheets together. Of course, I don’t use origami paper for origami but rather for the colors – it’s really helped me play with color.

Brent: The early wood lengths tended to lean or sit vertical, some horizontal: Any reason for the vertical preference?
2 Color Squares, 2006 origami paper on white paper, 11 x 11 inches (each) Origami paper is great…Great for its lightness. Also how the color works with the sheerness of the paper. This really gives an instant color area that you can respond to and would actually be very difficult to achieve another way. It’s like the opposite of building up a surface of color. Have you ever attempted to translate the color feel of origami paper over to a different color material and surface?

Patricia: Looking back on this body of work, I see that most are vertical. It’s interesting because I think at first I was thinking of making a painting, so I simply put it on the wall and then I found myself leaning, stacking or placing them on the floor. Leaning the long wood pieces creates a space behind, light that I work with. Now, I consider these works to be a “hybrid” painting/sculpture.
The origami paper is great for that immediacy of color, lightness and as you mentioned, sheerness of the paper. 2 Color Squares from 2006 was a piece that I was interested in translating to paint. This piece has a certain lightness and airiness, literally. At the time, I was rereading Josef Albers’ “Interaction of Color” and one quote that I kept, and keep going back to is “a color is never seen as it really is…as it physically is.” As much as I tried, and try, to match the color of the origami paper it was physically different. Some acrylic paintUntitled, 2008 acrylic on wood 48 x 1 ¼ x ½ inches dries with a matte finish and others with a glossy one. The piece I created, entitled Color Inter Action, has a luscious smooth surface that is grounded, as opposed to the lightness of the origami paper.

Brent: Your latest wood pieces have a different feel. There is this motif. The color is very active and bright. They remind me of ‘ritual’ perhaps – brightly painted instruments that are used to create excitement, war, dance. They work interesting against the concrete, for example. They can be vertical or horizontal, slot in to an area. They appear eventful; even take on the feel of ‘trophy’, as something symbolic of an event.
You mention painting hybridizing sculpture. These wood pieces I just see them as they are, neither thinking painting or sculpture. And I think that is a good thing.

Patricia: Thanks Brent. Your right about the different feel. In the earlier work I was making subtle, quite pieces. Lately, I’ve found I want the work to be playful and more active. I like your reference to dance. The colors are more vibrant and bounce off the walls or jump at you. I guess, I’m in a different place too, I feel more comfortable with color. The latest piece, entitled Color Bundle, takes off on this dance, strips of colored paper are bundled together and glued in the middle making the ends of the paper curl and activate the space.

Red Wave, 2008 acrylic on wood, variable, 48 x 1 1/4 x 1/2 inches (each)

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