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January 23. Coffee at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Tim Tozer and I discussed my Residency Summary and talked about my goals for the upcoming semester. I was pleased that he seemed very open about sharing details about his creative process and had some good suggestions about generating imagery. Tim told me about how he appropriates color schemes directly from other artists’ paintings, applying various Morandi color palettes to his landscape-based work. This piece of advice reminded me of the artist’s role as image collector and the necessity to borrow and collect imagery and ideas. Tim encouraged me to “steal” and afterwards, I wandered through the museum and took photographs of bits of paintings that interested me in terms of color. One of my goals for the semester was to work on how I use reference material. I could be less literal in the way I convert photographic imagery into paintings. Tim’s response was: “Draw and Chop”. Make collages and drawings. Cut them into bits and reassemble them. Work intuitively and playfully produce in volume. In retrospect, I could have done more of this, but it proved to be challenging to bounce back and forth between collage, painting and drawing while simultaneously trying to resolve paintings that I had already started.
2. February 20. Studio Visit I started the semester by building 16, 21” x 23” panels with the intention of creating a cinematic two-dimensional experience by arranging a series of paintings side by side to suggest narrative structure. Initially, this approach seemed like it might be an effective method of describing a temporal experience of space and place. In retrospect, I think it is more effective to adopt a more cubist
Yergens 2 approach to representing wandering, rather than through a storyboard-like series of static, scenic pictures. The first painting I made this semester was an attempt to suggest a visual narrative. Each panel presents a peculiar circumstance from a different viewpoint. The series proved largely unsuccessful. Conceptually it was heavy handed and left very little to the imagination. I am still interested in the process of creating mythologies, but I am curious as to how I might do so without being overly illustrative. Tim seemed to fancy the series of color study collages that I made from magazine clippings. The color schemes were pleasing and quite different from the direction I tend to take in paint. The collages were, at the same time, compositionally successful, even though I was not consciously considering subject matter as I assembled the clippings. He suggested that I make a painting, working somewhat directly from one of the more interesting color schemes collages. The process of creating the collage became both a starting point for a painting and a method to depart from old habits in terms of how I use color. After spending some time researching traditional Chinese landscape painting, I chose a place near my home (Caron Park in Rice County, MN) and collected images of its stream’s small waterfalls. I drew directly onto the images, using ink and paint to eliminate certain details and accentuate other elements. I collaged the drawings together in a vertical composition similar to that of a Chinese hanging scroll. I found the process to be an interesting method of generating imagery for representing landscape from multiple perspectives. In Chinese painting this two dimensional representation of a temporal experience is called “the angle of totality” or “floating perspective.” We discussed the notion of using both a large brush and a small brush in the same painting in an effort to achieve another layer of contrast within the work. The gestural effects of a large brush provide expressive energy and the small brush work offers interesting intimacy. Tim suggested that I make a drawing of one of my paintings as a means to generate fresh ideas for the piece before committing to altering it drastically. I have found that over the course of the semester, I have become bolder in my approach; more comfortable with taking risks and making big changes.
Yergens 3 I had produced a three panel piece, a two panel piece and several single panel pieces. Tim challenged me to combine four of my almost square panels and work larger. Tim is an advocate of identifying habits that you find yourself relying on frequently (for example: using a lot of one particular color or mark) and removing that thing from your work for a while. This challenges the painter to keep the work fresh and interesting. I think this is a difficult thing to do, simply because it is uncomfortable. Tim seems to be encouraging me to depart from pictorial representation. Paintings that recall landscape but are not overly illusionistic are still about space, but the spatial relationships do not have to make total sense.
3. March 25. Studio Visit Tim thinks that my work is “Crying out for scale.” How might outdoor observational painting inform/interact with studio painting? I set out to be more imaginative and inventive and in the process of doing so am reminded of the need to reconnect with actual space and place. I struggle to find balance in this way and wonder how I might develop a process of documenting perceptual experience that is not overly tedious and methodical but meaningful enough to avoid feeling like I am making arbitrary moves. Tim and I discussed the modular quality of the work. Paintings composed of more than one panel allow for unexpected juxtapositions and a square format makes it possible to rotate individual panels while working, a method that keeps things fresh and exciting. One of the most interesting experiments from the semester has been the task of trying to unify two unrelated paintings; watching them transform and attempting to let the work evolve without being too premeditated. In the painting of the tall trees and the fantastical clouds woven through tree tops, Tim said that he would like to see the forest extend westward (to the left). I like the flexibility and challenges that working on multiple panels brings. I can continue building a piece outward until I am satisfied with the world that I have created.
Yergens 4 This meeting was in Tim’s garage studio, which gave me the opportunity to see his work space and some of his preliminary studies and sketches. The work that Tim is known for is abstract landscape, much of it featuring bathing figures. Tim currently is doing nonobjective work. He says that he is making pictures of grayish blocks. I haven’t had a chance to see any of it, but it is always refreshing and inspiring to hear about artists who begin to do something completely different.
4. April 17. Studio Visit Tim suggested that I do some works on paper in acrylic. I found a couple rolls of old photo paper that turns purple when exposed to light. I covered my studio wall with a vertical sheet resembling the format of an enormous hanging scroll and emulated the composition of a Chinese landscape painting, using paint brushes taped to the end of long sticks. I used a variety of photographic reference material and attempted to merge disparate elements in a painterly way. Set a goal of 100 square feet of painting by June. Ultimately, I was able to achieve this goal by creating the aforementioned monstrous painting on paper. Limit pallet, restrict range of value. The critique of my four panel piece based off of the collage of the extinct bird and earthquake destruction was useful. Tim suggested that I create some visual resting places. We observed that the light poles seem to merge gradually into plants. Tim though that perhaps this metamorphosis could continue and the upper portion of the piece could feature light poles becoming stars. My notes from this particular conversation read: “Get rid of light show, turn it into a galaxy.” I decided instead to keep the sky simple and to mirror some of the geometric shapes found in the bridge on the right in the trees on the left.
5. May 25. Studio Visit Paint outside: reconnect with the experience of space, relish in the constraints provided by observational painting. As I continue to work more intuitively, I notice a different visual vocabulary developing: organic forms merging with architectural/geometric forms, mark making that suggests “flow” and “meandering,” waterfall imagery, and abstract
Yergens 5 linear elements that anchor, suspend, connect and support. I hope to apply a similar vocabulary while working from direct observation. Tim thinks that the more non-objective work seems less confident. I think this can be attributed to the arbitrary nature of its construction, partially caused by a lack of constraints. I plan to narrow my focus and to collect more specific reference material based on actual personal experience of landscape. Tim offered some useful feedback about my last research paper and gave me an essay about Cezanne that he was reminded of as he read the paper. Tim and I talked about what more of a “Cubist” representation of the landscape might be. Hockney’s Polaroid collages are fascinating depictions of space, but most of his paintings from the eighties, which attempt to depict multiple perspectives of a landscape or an interior space, end up looking kind of like goofy board games. We joked around for a bit about making a “Chutes and Ladders” painting, but I think I really arrived at the crux of the challenge: Making a two dimensional depiction of a temporal, spatial experience is problematic, mostly due to the fact that the viewer is accustomed to perceiving paintings as windows onto a scene from one vantage point. This is what I was trying to address in my last research paper and I am puzzled as to how to address this issue in my work. Perhaps collaging and/or layering quick sketches or video stills to generate imagery might be an interesting solution.
Goals for Next Semester: I raised over $4,500 in a Kickstarter campaign to fund a painting expedition to Northern Norway this summer. My intention is to create drawings, paintings, photographs and video footage that will serve as reference material for my upcoming semester of studio work. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1926600228/midnattsol-a-painting-expedition-in-arcticnorway Upon my return to Minnesota and before the weather and the short days make it difficult to paint outside, I would like to do more work from direct observation. I will focus my efforts on the nature of specific experiences with specific landscapes, continuing to collect visual and mythical data in the form of small paintings, oil sketches, watercolor drawings, video footage and
Yergens 6 photographs. Studio isolation of colder months will be spent making large paintings using reference material I had been collecting since July. List of Artists Researched: David Hockney, Peter Doig, Chinese Landscape, Tony Berlant, William Kentridge, Morandi, Margaret Wall-Romana, Dana Schutz, Amy Sillman, Emily Carr, Matthew Ritchie, Julie Mehretu, Constant Nieuwenhuys and Situationist International, Mark Bradford, Anselm Kiefer, Mercedes Matter, Allan Kaprow, Robert Smithson, Hudson River School, Picasso, Braque Bibliography: Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience by Yi-Fu Tuan The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard Earth-Mapping: Artists Reshaping Landscape by Edward S. Casey Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig Principles of Chinese Painting by George Rowley Field by John Berger Art as Experience by John Dewey Cezanne's Doubt by Maurice Merleau-Ponty The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges David Hockney: A Bigger Picture A Film by Bruno Wollheim Stalker A Film by Andrei Tarkovsky
Yergens 7 Revised Artist Statement
I seek opportunities to explore and experience. A strong connection to my surroundings compels me to investigate the landscape’s layered complexity and to search for orientation and meaning in its mysterious vastness. My work reveals aspects of both visual space and mythical space. My paintings and drawings reveal the richness which is beyond visual experience, only accessible through imagination and intuition. My experience of place has evolved from an appreciation of its natural beauty to a deeper connection with its primeval spirit.
It is my intention to express the primal essence of place. My work mediates spatial experience and facilitates imagined wandering. My paintings ultimately become both cartographic artifacts of individual experiences and vehicles for sharing. The work does not present a single vista from a fixed perspective. My paintings function as paths rather than windows, opportunities for visual meandering through imagined space. Organic forms merge with architectural forms. Abstract linear elements anchor, suspend, connect and support. The pause and flow of painterly gesture perpetuates the viewer’s journey.