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Lisa Beck TextExhibition 4 June - 28 June 2009
Q + A with Hudson .05.23.09

.seems you’ve made big jumps recently, in both vocabulary and technique.
I suppose so, although almost everything in these paintings has appeared in my work before, just not all together. In this batch of work, I tried to think and plan as little as possible—no rules, everything on the table.

.do you prepare for your paintings with sketches or studies?
I do drawings that lead up to the paintings, but only very rarely do the paintings turn out exactly as the work leading up to them. Even when I try to transfer an idea exactly from a drawing to a painting, it never stays the way it starts. There are always adjustments, accidents, and new ideas that pop up while I am working.

.why b/w? Why no color?
It felt right. These pieces are very much involved with bipolarity/symmetry, and the opposition of black and white seems appropriate. A black-and-white image is not going to be confused with reality, so it can be depictive and abstract at the same time. The lack of color permits a different kind of scrutiny of structure and content. Something else occurred to me recently: white light is really all colors of the spectrum seen at once, black (or shadow) is the absence of light (and therefore the absence of color). In paint, white is the absence of all hues, and black is the combination of all of them. So both black and white are every color and no color at the same time!
You know that I did primarily black and white work for about 10 years. Then color crept in and took over and now it’s drained out again. I’m not sure why it comes or goes, but I can equate it to black-and-white versus color photography. Though I like color photos a lot, I’ve always been drawn to black-and-white images—they are both analytical and moody. Some of these pieces do have a sort of homeopathic amount of color in them, but it is more felt than seen.

.would you comment on your use of examining, ordering, repeating, and reflecting?
The new two-panel works fall into two categories. Some of the paintings have “rhyming” symmetrical elements—the imagery on one panel is flipped and repeated on the opposite panel. In this way an arbitrary set of choices gets an ordered interpretation. The second category of works may incorporate some mirroring, but the panels are not mirror images of each other. Those have to do with the idea of creating a situation and then exposing or examining what is outside of it—the contributing factors, if you will. So it’s taking a considered set of choices and bombarding it with a random element.

.maybe I’m overreacting but there are many straight lines in this new workthe circle seems threatened . . . what’s going on?
There, there, don’t worry. Circles are pretty invulnerable. Anyway, they’re still there, although sometimes more in the background or as a reference in sets of radiating lines or shapes.

.I don’t remember you using soft edges or working in a way that leaves such visible brush markshow did you get into that so quickly? Is your interest in this softness somehow connected to its conceptual relationship to roundness?
More visible brushwork probably came in after some ink drawings that I did on prepared Mylar. The ink sticks, but it can’t soak in and dries in weird, puddly ways. I’ve always been interested in the meeting places between things, whether soft or hard, and have used gradients or blended areas for a long time. As to why I’m interested in softness . . . I could analyze it and come to a conceptual reason in retrospect, but I’ll just have to say again—it felt right.

.outside of a few rather atypical instances of quoting in some works from a few years ago, this is the first time I’ve seen you include a figure.
Yes, but the last time I checked it wasn’t against the law.

.Ttrue, though in terms of what artists do and how they work, moving from a long-term commitment to abstraction to working figuratively is considered a pretty big thing. What is it about you or your work now that brought this about?
To me there isn’t such a hard line between figuration and abstraction—both are representations of ideas, and in a sense you could say a painting of a circle is more “realistic” than a painting of a figure or a landscape. But that aside, even in my more abstracted works a lot of the arrangements of elements were based on landscape or scientific images, and I saw them as referring to structures or skeletons under what is seen in nature. When I used elements like circles, gradients and mirroring, I had molecules, stars, horizons, clouds and lakes in the back of my mind. In this new work, they are just more visible. And I suppose once I went there, there was no reason that a figure couldn’t be one of the elements too. I don’t want to have to choose sides between figure/ground or abstraction/depiction—after all, we are made of the same stuff as the environment we are in. It’s all a bunch of somewhat organized matter, except that we seem to be able to be aware of it.

.in the past you’ve addressed emotional situations quietly and intellectually, but a number of these new works feel charged up.

.it does seem that your works come out of real experiences? What kinds of things inspire you?
When my son was in elementary school he had to do an exercise that was meant to introduce an awareness of context and broaden the sense of place and scale. The kids had to write their address like this:
Your name, your room, your house number, your street, your neighborhood, Brooklyn, New York, USA, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Virgo Supercluster, the Universe.

And then the other way:
The Universe, Virgo Supercluster, Milky Way Galaxy, Solar System, Earth, Northern Hemisphere, North America, USA, New York, Brooklyn, your neighborhood, your street, your house number, your room, your name.

Interesting difference, right?

Walking around, being alive, and thinking about the amazing set of coincidences and confluences that made that possible is very inspiring.

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