Unreal Nature

August 9, 2016

My Own Little Trajectory

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… It’s really a conversation with the work …

This is from Storr’s interview with Close in Chuck Close by Robert Storr (1998):

[ … ]

Chuck Close: … I’m as interested in the distribution of marks on a flat surface and the articulation of that and the patterns and the beat that comes up as I am with the thing that ultimately gets depicted. My tendency is to see things formally, but I think some people when they read a poem or novel or whatever, the narrative line is so important for them that they lose touch with the fact that it’s actually built out of a series of words, and the words are pushed up against each other, and slowly an image is built.

[line break added] Other people like the way the words trip off the tongue and really get interested in the syntax and the physical experience of just forming words and making something out of them. I guess I always liked operating in the tension between those two extremes, where there are times when it’s just the sheer joy of marks falling next to each other and then “oops” that it shifts into an image, and so that what was flat ends up spatial. It’s that dichotomy shifting from one to the other that really interests me.


[ … ]

CC: … You know people say they’d like to see me keep a painting unfinished. I would never leave it unfinished. [ … ] I am keeping progressive proofs, and I would love to do an exhibition in which all the progressive proofs are laid out, but in the end I want it to be done.

Robert Storr: What I am asking is why is “done” defined in those terms always? Aesthetically aren’t there other “dones”?

CC: There are other “dones” for other folks, but “done” for me is done. It may be because of all the years that I spent as a junior Abstract Expressionist in which I never knew when anything was finished, and I went with my so-called taste and intuition and good sense of design and whatever. I felt so unequipped to make a painting that way.

[line break added] Its lack of doneness or overdoneness, where you go beyond what you should have done and wish you could back up: “If only I hadn’t put that big orange stroke on top of everything.” I think I wanted to find a way to work where that didn’t happen. I get to the lower right-hand corner. It’s done and it’s clear and I know it. It relieves the anxiety and concern.

[ … ]

RS: After you had made your first group of heads, did you look forward and anticipate where they were likely to lead you, or did you just proceed from one empirical experiment to the next without an overall project in mind?

CC: I’m either dumber than the average painter, which is a pretty scary thought, or maybe there’s something about my learning disabilities or whatever that I am really of the moment. I don’t think much about the past, and I really don’t think about the future. I am surprised often that I’m still painting portraits at all to tell you the truth. I don’t predict what I’m going to do. I don’t plan ahead that much.

[line break added] It doesn’t matter where the whole art world is going. I’ve got my own little trajectory. I guess the thing about the way I work that is most important is that the things I make answer particular problems that I have posed for myself. They are my private solutions, and I get a hell of a kick out of it. It’s one of the great things about the dialogue an artist has with his or her own work. It’s you alone in the room. Now I have other people around me, but I still try and make the studio just me and the canvas.

[line break added] I see something that makes me do something. Then I realize that I did something I hadn’t thought I was going to do, or I see some aspect of it that I didn’t recognize before, or I start to take advantage of some accident that happened. It’s really a conversation with the work, with the piece. I like the amount of change in my work, the progress and the development. It may be too slow for everybody else, or it may feel that I’m plowing the same ground endlessly, or as I’ve heard people say or critics write, “God, he’s still making those goddamn heads,” you know.

[line break added] Sometimes that one worries me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not constipated or stuck. On the other hand, as long as the process feels rich enough and engaging enough, that dialogue can continue, I think. “Why mess with this?” This feels right. This is how it ought to feel to be an artist. Does that make any sense?

My most recent previous post from Storr’s book is here.




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