One thing beside another

Many abstract paintings, especially of the brushy variety, are collections of marks, shapes, strokes, glimpses, stuff all banging around on the canvas. In this they are just like life, which is also a matter of floating planes that get in the way. Let’s say you go to work—there’s a dull, brownish colored plane, maybe with some other colored shapes inside it. Out in the street traffic makes some crazy flowing parallel lines, which one has to avoid. A splatter is a surprising experience, etc. The world was once something to contemplate, now it’s something to negotiate, and it’s clear how abstract painting evolved out of landscape. Meanwhile my mind, and I presume most people’s, is endlessly occupied with this and that thing going on around, within, nearby, overseas, whatever. Painterly abstraction is then true to life, geometric abstraction true to a concept. I lean to the former, but the problem is how to make something that hangs together in a better arrangement than the normal argle-bargle, and therefore better than the average abstract picture. I’ve found one answer is to pull back from all the goings-on, rest in the blank in between and let the parts fall together in their own way. Silence in the studio. One has to let it all be, but let it become a piece of art. Because of their method, my Island pictures have this entirely resolved, and the open, negative areas—the “oceans”—signify and work formally. In the watercolors, which lack the advantage of the pouring method, the momentary part and the overall pattern resume their tussle. Yet this is a good thing.

Robert Linsley, untitled watercolor 2012

A Heraclitan like myself accepts that a concatenation of marks on a surface is a concatenation of living moments—but then has to admit that he prefers the finished product to be still.

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