JL: Some of the works function more as “signs” than others. In some cases, a kind of horizon line separates a phrase from a group of silhouettes. In others, there is no language at all. How important is it for you to work in these different modes?
LR: I think it’s important to feel the freedom to work in any mode that works for me. Sometimes it’s very satisfying to make a painting that’s simply all text. I like the abstractness of it visually, as in a Chinese calligraphic ink painting. That same Chinese painter would also be known for his landscapes. There was a contemporary Chinese artist in a show in the Asian galleries at the Met, who painted landscapes that were built up with Chinese calligraphy. The words/symbols functioned as marks to compose the landscape. Quite beautiful and smartly done. Basically I don’t like to be hemmed in and not feel the freedom to work in a way that suits my purposes. When I don’t feel the need to use words… I don’t. I don’t want to force anything. I don’t ever want to feel a prisoner to a style or way of working. In that case you might as well be illustrating hot dog packages.
JL: How do you think this changes the “message” that using text implies?
LR: In terms of how language or no language changes the “message”, I’m not at all sure. I don’t know what the message is. I don’t want to send a message anyway. I want to engage the viewer enough to return again to experience the painting. Hopefully there is always something left over after each viewing. Something hanging in the air. Otherwise I consider it a failure.