Gutai and the Immaterial Material

The best thing about painting in oils is that I never entirely know what direction the work is going to go. Although I have a plan, I take a step back to deliberate over the next choice, always wondering what the work needs next. A good painting surprises me; the mediocre ones stay the same from start to finish. A metaphor for living life anyone?

Right to left: The Newly Wed, 2013. Oil on canvas. 30" x 24";  His Dreams To Remember, 2013. Oil on canvas. 24" x 18".

Above are two paintings I did four years ago. They're okay, but I had a lot of trouble working on them because working on a painting is different than working with a painting. It shows in the finished product. I came at these two paintings with a plan, executed it, and didn't let the materials inform the direction that the work would go.

To Each His Own, 2013. Oil on canvas. 30" x 36". 

One of my favorites that I've worked on is To Each His Own because when I made the work it was primarily defined by the qualities of the paint that I used. Without knowing it at the time, I had approached the painting in this way because I had recently learned about Gutai. The artists of Gutai were defined by the materials they used to make art. Their work was about finding the quintessential character of a material. All of the descriptive factors that make up what a material is guided what the artwork became.

Video taken from Nipponlugano.

A few weeks ago I busted out the ol' oil paints after a two year hiatus. I don't know entirely what my new group of work will be about except that it will center around plants. What I do know is that I'm thinking a lot about the essence of each plant and of the qualities of elements in nature. To do that I'll be revisiting the Gutai artists and letting the character of the oil paints take the work where it needs to go.

A new work in progress where I'm letting the oils and the aloe define the painting.


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