All at once

I have to thank Mr. Stella for testifying to the strength of my own work, although he didn’t realize he had done so. He says that printmaking has “…one legitimate claim to superiority over painting,…it [creates] the surfaces it articulates with one coordinated action. Painting still has to cover its surfaces after the fact, it can’t have the luxury of creating them as it acts by itself.” Clearly this is exactly what my pouring method does, and I believe that is enough to make a genuine contribution to modern painting, at least the way I do it. It’s also a labor saving device that doesn’t rely on technology.

Robert Linsley, Northern Passage 1998

I want to stop talking about my own work on this blog, but at this moment of intense involvement with the work of Frank Stella I can hardly help it. For example, everything in the world is adjacent to something else, and every empty space or “negative” is in fact another positive, or contains positive forms that may be closer or further apart. Even Stella’s work, with all its fullness, has some breathing room, and each of those variously colored blanks is another positive form if seen from the right distance. So the difference between complexity and simplicity is just a matter of scale, which means point of view—in other words from how high we look.

Robert Linsley, Flowery Meadows Island 2000

My work is about the way the forms fit together, maybe with a qualitative difference from the arbitrary norm of American abstraction. And literature, which doesn’t have to come from any book. Wouldn’t an island of flowery meadows have something to do with death?

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4 Responses to All at once

  1. John Holland says:

    Robert- I hope you read this far down the posts, but this is the last time, as you say, you have been talking about your own work, and I wanted to ask you a simple and dull technical question about it.
    I find it impossible to grasp, from pictures on the internet, what your paintings look like and how they are formed. You describe them as ‘poured’, but the shapes are complex, almost fractal in the way of a coastline, and pouring thick liquids does not generally result in these shapes- it normally looks ‘gloopy’.
    How do you get the paint to make these complicated edges? Do you use implements? Are the different colours poured wet on dry? And are the ones that have a coloured ground painted first in a conventional way, ie with a brush or roller?
    I only ask these questions because it would give a much fuller sense of the ‘feel’ of the paintings than I can get from the images available.

    • John, thanks for the question. I pour the paint then move the canvas around – lift it, tilt it, turn it etc., then leave it flat on the floor for one shape to dry before making more. The coloured grounds are put on with rollers. The paint can be thinned more or less and the surface can be sealed more or less, both of which make a difference as to what kind of shape and edges I can get. All those little bumps in the edges are what I work with to make a composition of several shapes. And with the negative areas. It’s a very simple method, but gives a lot of possibilities. I can control it, but everything happens in motion, so control is not exactly control – more like observing the thing emerge in time. Space for reflection is only between shapes. They are not “flat,” or perfect in any way – since they are normally 6×5 feet photos don’t register much of the surface, which has its own kind of reduced painterliness.

  2. John Holland says:

    Thanks for that. I assume that one colour will ‘sit’ on the previous one, ie be visibly on top of it? Or is the paint, by the time it forms the edges, too thin to have a noticable depth?
    It’s an interesting level of control/lack of control. Even the colours you choose- once you have chosen a colour to pour, that’s a pretty irrevocable decision, in the sense that you can’t really remove it or cover it I’m guessing.

    • Depending on where I stop the flow, the paint might pile up thickly. You can see it on top of the ground. It is a one directional process, there’s no going back, but I don’t experience that as a limitation. It’s also in a tradition – Pollock, Frankenthaler, Louis.

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