The Evolution of Deconstruction: Barbara Fisher’s Paintings

West Branch Gallery
Aug 8, 2015 4:00AM

If an artist has been working for years, decades, a lifetime, you can see progression in their art. In the case of Barbara Fisher, she progressed from using symbolic imagery to recognizable imagery, and finally to no representational imagery at all.  For her, it was a gradual process of deconstructing her old forms to reflect her changing interior states of being. As she said, “Now I paint what aren’t visual things outside myself but rather the big picture of my life.”

In 2011 to 2012, Fisher worked almost exclusively in neutral colors; black, sepia, beige, and white. 2013 saw Fisher working with oil on canvas using specific life forms like eggs, rocks, and vegetation, as well as clocks and spirals. From there she went to using mixed media on 12 x 12 inch canvas, with brightly colored grids depicting her uniquely playful hieroglyphics; including cats, a purse, shopping cart, and other dancing shapes. “My imagery makes up a personal visual vocabulary. In the past a lot of my images were reflections of the Self, like houses and eggs, or botanical-like things growing under and above the earth, reflecting our interior versus our exterior selves.”

At West Branch, Barbara Fisher currently has four paintings that she describes as non-emotional. “I’m painting what’s floating around in the ether with a certain detachment. I try to depict states of mind, atmospheric forces, or what might be going on inside the supercollider. Each painting hints at a narrative, based on the way I envision energy, ideas, memories and other elements interacting.”

Barbara Fisher’s Desire, oil on panel, is 30 x 30 inches of bold colors; oranges, reds and yellows. Interspersed in this abstract painting are openings of light beaming through, along with dark remnants of a fence and little bug-like images floating around in the deep space. “I want the atmosphere to be mysterious but not foreboding, so you would want to walk into the painting and see where it might take you,” she said.  In Quiet Recollection, 36 x 36, and Unwinding, 16 x 16, both oil on panel, there is no representational imagery, just marks and atmosphere, whereas with her painting, Precarious, 24 x 24 inches, there might be a storm coming in on the upper left with a vessel shape hovering nearby. “When I used imagery in the past,” Fisher continued, “I painted a lot of vessels as they are classical symbols of the Self.  In all these paintings there are many kinds of interactions between the marks – energy being exchanged.”

Since receiving her BFA in painting from the University of Colorado and a MFA from San Francisco State University, Barbara Fisher has come a long way. Today her work process is laborious, starting with one solid color, then drawing, and then painting. She sands off areas, wipes off paint and overlays more paint, sands again, and applies charcoal, paint stick, pastel and chalk into the semi-wet paint. She said that sometimes she finishes a painting and then completely paints over it, allowing the richness of pentimento to show through. “You can see a lot of ghost images in all my paintings,” she said.

For Barbara Fisher, her process reveals the content. “I don’t start with a specific aim or visualization. It’s a process of adding and subtracting, covering and revealing. I work to figure out what the painting is, rather than working to represent something I already know. It may sound trite, but it’s really all about asking the question rather than answering it.”

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