“An avalanche of color has no force,” Matisse wrote in 1945. “Color attains its full expression only when it is organized, when it corresponds to the emotional intensity of the artist.” At OUTLET this month, Jason Andrew presents the impressive work of Lucy Mink and Judith Dolnick, painters who seem to live for color, and since I have been exploring color in some of my new projects and paintings, I decided to ask them about their relationship to what is probably the most elusive and complex element in painting.
Judith Dolnick, Untitled, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 28 inches.
I asked them four main questions:
1. Do you have any particular rules you follow when choosing color? Do you mix the colors before you begin or decide and mix as you move through the process?
2. Is there such a thing as “awkward color”? If yes, what can make color choices and combinations awkward?
3. Do the colors you choose reference specific objects or experiences outside the painting, or are your color choices all about their relationships to one another within the canvas?
4. How do you respond to the color in each others work?
Here are their insightful responses:
1. My choice of color is all very intuitive. One color calls for another. Encourages another. Mix as I go. You know, as I move through the painting. I never mix a lot of color all at once. It’s part of search, isn’t it? To discover a painting over time?
What I do like to have prepared is a smooth surface to take the paint. I prefer a smooth surface more than a rough surface. It just feels good on the brush when the paint hits the surface. Almost erotic! And I can do washes: pools of color from which I can play.
An old friend, the painter Michael Dillon, suggested once a long while ago that I should paint on a tinted ground. I tried it and liked it. That’s when I began to play with grounds: blacks, browns and beige. Red on top of black has an entirely different effect, optically, than just red on a plain old canvas. I also liked playing with the transparency–one color peeking through another.
When I went to college we were never allowed to use black. We had to make black by combining colors. Even today I always feel naughty when I use black directly from the tube!
2. It’s not something I think about. I often feel awkward, as a person, when I make these things! But I don’t think that the things in my paintings, including the color, are ever awkward. I imagine for some a color can feel awkward, but only if it doesn’t work in the painting. I guess what might look awkward also depends on who is looking at the painting. Otherwise, isn’t all color beautiful? Why is everyone afraid of making beautiful painting?
3. I don’t consciously think my colors specifically reference objects or experiences. My color choices are more about the colors’ relationships to one another. I don’t really have external influence. But who knows. My husband, the painter Robert Natkin, always denied being influenced by things outside the studio. Then one day, I remember, it was snowing outside and he was making a white painting!
4. Well, I enjoyed seeing Lucy’s paintings very much. More than the color, I liked her use of paint and texture. I was especially interested in her use of space. I can see that she has a solid structure on which, I hope, she will continue to paint for a long as I have!
1. I have no particular rules when choosing a color. I have some favorites, cobalt blue and hookers green and I will often be thoughtful of where these color choices are used and what is near them. Lately I get excited about two colors meeting that are new for me. It has to work in the composition, though. I mix as I move through the process. I like not knowing what’s going to happen in a painting.
2. In the the late 80s when I was an undergrad, I mixed and painted with every color combination possible. I would say it was very awkward. Now I embrace the “awkward color” moments that happen by accident when it works. I have a huge struggle with yellows. I have often painted over them. Over the last two years I have had many varieties of pinks and greens in my paintings alongside other colors (an on-the-side research project) to see how that works in different paintings.
3. I am sensitive to my environment and can paint anywhere. When I lived in Syracuse, NY (2009, 2010), I had a lot more grey in my paintings. I also reference music. Here in New Hampshire, I do a lot of driving and play the same songs over and over; I get hung up on lyrics and certain sounds. I did not drive often in Syracuse. If I look back at those paintings now I can see the difference in how I lived and what was going on through my color choices.
4. I love the background colors in Judy’s paintings and the way her forms gently touch or hug other forms. I know she is paying attention to the quality “awkward” color moments and letting them stay.
This is Dolnick’s first NYC solo show in 28 years, and Mink’s first solo exhibition in New York. They both live and work in New England.
“Judith Dolnick: paintings”
“Lucy Mink: comes in the moment so please stay in touch”
OUTLET, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through June 28, 2015
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