Letter to Marie Thibeault

George Lawson
Oct 24, 2015 6:28PM


We've completed the first week of your run. You wanted me to give you some feedback on your new work, and I'll try here, though not just in terms of your own painting but also noting a trend of at least five of my painters, all women as it happens— you, Judith, Sara, Justine and Erin

You all have worked your way since my first shows with you to much purer painting positions, and now carry the narrative of your art increasingly through your paint quality and paint handling, and less through depiction, or the use of paint to render. I won't say you are drawing less. That's not the case. Your drawing, however, is more about equivalences and less about similarities, a cryptic distinction that perhaps I'll clarify as I go along. So, five of you--maybe it is a coincidence. More likely, the gallery has fostered a culture. I don't know if I can claim any part in this; I probably picked you all because of some quality that hinted at a particular direction you'd take, but if I've influenced your evolution at all through our conversations, my writing and my curatorial biases, I'm grateful. The gallery stable has never been more homogeneous than at this moment.

Judith has moved from a fairly realistic interpretation of the texture of bark and the heart grain of wood, to an attempt to paint the very energy that forms these surfaces. Sara has moved from a repertory cast of archetypal symbols to a gestural mark that achieves the presence of a totem, still stemming from the Id, no less so for its integration with her process. Justine has moved from leveraging the referential tropes of celebrity, such as day-glow fluorescents and limelight, to an innate understanding of paint's power to just show up. (Wait until you see her new work.) Erin has moved from painting loops and folds to allowing loops and folds to reveal her paint, a remarkable inversion. And you have moved from describing stress through pictures of things (cars in swimming pools, broken tree stumps, reflections in puddles, torqued rafters and abandoned hard drives, to name a few) to imbuing your stroke with the same stress that bent all these objects out of whack in the first place. 

You form your painted space through stacking flat planes. They may be as crumpled as old beer cans, or tilted, or stretched, but they're still essentially flat, and in order for them to read as space, it is essential we can see through them to the next plane behind, and the one behind that. To that end you've developed a veritable sampler quilt of semi-permeable membranes: glazes, scumbles, open networks, hard-edged monochrome swatches, wet-on-wet tongues, and leaping connectors, to stitch all the chaos together. These stacks incorporate time into their reading. Most painting is about memory, with time flowing backwards from the surface. Impressions are this way. Interpretations. Abstractions. (An exception to this is Nancy Haynes, whose paintings are about the near future, like a premonition, with time flowing forward from her surface, some event horizon upon whose threshold we are about to arrive.) In your work, as I've noted before, time flows in both directions and things could be coming together as much as falling apart, though you've increasingly favored the densest moment of either case.

Color plays a mitigating role in your work, a silver lining in any color but silver. It carries your faith, if not outright optimism, that things will abide. Your work is anxious, but because of color, it doesn't succumb to anxiety. Your work is complex, but it is the complexity of detail rather than acceleration. Your painting reads more like a book than a book's cover. So, finally, what is your image? What picture have you wrought? Any one of your paintings could stand in as poster child for adaptation. It may be that the architecture of coping is your leitmotif, not creation or destruction so much as the humming stasis of the ever-presence of both. And when I think about it, with different tonalities, and differing sensibilities, all five of you could claim variations on the same accomplishment, which is to say painting within, even more so than in response to, the human predicament.

It's such good work. Thank you for the opportunity to exhibit it.



George Lawson