a flight of the eye
linda schrank, 2013
Artist Book Series
Publisher: Edizioni Peccolo, Livorno, Italy
You can drive across a long ridge that stretches above the Crete Senesi, the countryside outside Siena. In late spring, the landscape is an acid green carpet that will grow tall and become bleached white grass, the new wheat the wind will form into waves. Once the crop is threshed the fields will be plowed into stripes. Slowly, with the intense heat of summer, the bare land will become dry and gray, the color of the Sienese clay, a landscape Iris Origo described as resembling “the backs of elephants.” I’ve been driving around the Crete for twenty-eight years, whenever I feel the need for some air, or simply to be in nature, to look at the light outside my studio. Moving high on the narrow pass, I feel as if I’m traversing the rim of the globe.
In Italo Calvino’s book, The Baron in the Trees, Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo chooses to live his life where he can attain some distance, above and away from the folly of every day events. In my studio, I look at my paintings and see pools of color and myriad marks, slowly weaving a web of tangled threads and squiggles, insistent dots and meandering circles. Some time ago this vocabulary formed a tight matrix in my art. Over many years and after an artist residency in India, the space in my paintings has become more open and now creates an expanded world that floats.
Like a hawk its prey, I continuously circle the paintings in my studio. Every day I add crucial coats of paint over paint, hoping to arrive at lightness by adding layers and removing them, adding again and once again removing, in order to achieve what Calvino called a “subtraction of weight.” The rhythmical structures and shifting color reflect my response to the events that have occurred that day, a record of sorts. Sometimes I feel as if I’m a barometer. Calvino wrote: “I try to find some harmony between the adventurous, picaresque rhythm that prompted me to write and the frantic spectacle of the world – sometimes dramatic, sometimes grotesque.”
Bonnard compared his paintings to what happens when one enters a room and sees everything at once and then little by little is able to pick out its many details. I am no minimalist. Rather I am interested in creating a visual feast. I never tire of looking at Indian miniatures. From a distance I can see their architectural, geometric construction and then close up, a meticulous portrayal of events. The multiple figures, the organic forms of nature, the animals and objects reflect the culture from which the paintings originate and meld into a complex and rewarding visual mix. I love the fluid rhythm that Eastern Art and 14th century Sienese art share.
My process involves the tension between spontaneity and control. Whether working on paper or on wood panels there’s a continuous conversation between materials. Shellac ink and oil or casein and watercolor are combinations that resist each other and act in ways that surprise me. My constant struggle is to bring these elements together into a harmony of forces and relationships so that there is an alignment of subject, structure, and color. This harmony is always hard won.
Often it takes months of work for me to feel a painting is done, adding color, layer on top of layer, marks atop marks, subtracting as well, leaving traces and “pentimenti” that remain perceptible. In a finished piece, when continuous reworking has brought the surface to completion, I want the viewer to see and experience an image that seems to hold time. The visibility of the process is essential to me. The viewer should see my hand at work, feel the intimacy of my presence.
As I form my labyrinths I think of Carlo Levi’s meditation on complexity and digression: “Every means and every weapon is valid to save oneself from death and time. If a straight line is the shortest distance between two fated and inevitable points, digressions will lengthen it: and if these digressions become so complex, so tangled and tortuous, so rapid as to hide their own tracks, who knows - perhaps death may not find us, perhaps time will lose its way, and perhaps we ourselves can remain concealed in our shifting hiding places.”
I cannot separate my passion for painting from my love of being in the studio. The studio stands for the freedom to express whatever I wish. My art references other paintings, books read and absorbed, and also my personal history. The paintings are abstract, their many stages shaped by my memories, perceptions, thoughts, and desires. Bustling with scattered dots, circles and spirals, my most recent work reflects my longing for fluidity and openness, for boundaries that are porous, for the unseen made visible.