Stroke for Stroke: One.16 Statement

Early in my painting practice I was tormented by the self-imposed expectation that every painting be a masterpiece, the work that moves painting forward historically, that stands for life, the universe and everything. My way of coping with this unwieldy expectation was to remove the referential image, the tyranny of the narrative, and focus on the paint. I became a collaborator with the wax and pigment used in encaustic painting.

In 2004 I began to teach a course in historical painting technique at the Ontario College of Art and Design. Much to my surprise I fell head over heels for egg tempera, a process as distant from encaustic (at least the way I use it) as possible. I encouraged the students to use the tried and true method of copying to grasp the basic tendencies of the paint. Wishing to explore the medium further myself, I looked about for something to copy and landed on my own encaustic paintings.

Since beginning this work I have stumbled over several examples of painters trying to replicate/repeat/copy their own marks. Rauschenberg did Factum I and II in 1957; Ryman did a painting in 1964 called Back Talk: 5 canvas' with the same marks, but hand made of course, so with inevitable variations. Chardin often made copies of his own work after the fact, as did Clifford Still, and Elaine Sturtevant copied other artists’ work; I copied my own in a different medium to learn about a new/old kind of paint. I began to see the diptychs as a return to representation, as subject and portrait with the rather strange condition that the subject was also on display. The relationship between the two has an eerie quality of similar but different, and it takes a moment to distinguish what exactly is going on. In this case the encaustic panel is definitely the chicken to the egg.

So my thinking turned to this thought: what if I made the same painting over and over in the same medium? Or rather what if I made the same painting many times simultaneously?

In the series one.16 there is no first painting.

All 16 paintings (4 in each of four sizes) came up simultaneously, colour by colour, mark by mark. Using a grid and a series of mylar reference sheets, a specific set of 16 colours, appropriately scaled brushes and regular rotations of the canvas’, the paintings were executed. I find a very satisfying relationship to music in that the individual paintings are like distinct performances of the same song by the same singer; recognition is strong but each rendition contains its own peculiarities.

In another series of 8 paintings, shifting loci, a systematic laying down of parallel bands of colour (the same 16) takes place. The location of each mark is, however, randomly placed and intuitive, changing on each canvas. Looking at the paintings together, side by side, creates a flickering effect as the eye seeks connection and finds it in flux.

one.16,  and shifting loci were exhibited at Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto in October of 2006. In the meantime I am working up another song.

Nicole Collins

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