HISTORY: Colorfield painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and is considered a relative to abstract expressionism. Colorfield paintings are loosely characterized by large fields of pigment spread across or stained into the painting’s surface creating areas of unbroken hue. For colorfield painters the goal is to free color from objective context until the color itself becomes the subject.
HOW: Each colorfield work is the the melding of 300-400 layers of transparent watercolor pigment. Part science experiment, part obsessive compulsive dream; each layer is a push or pull upon the opposing pigment. Played out over months the evidence of the hand disappears and all that is left is a free fall moment in pure hue.
INFLUENCE: As pioneers of colorfield painting Clifford Stills used “scale” as the punch and Rothko used “color intention”; Barrett Newman immortalized the line through his “zip” paintings. In the contemporary exploration Modell takes influences of all three into her work and challenges theory by creating the anti-zip to Newman’s zip paintings. The abolition of context and line in its purest form. Early pioneers of colorfield painting worked with vibrant hues to overwhelm and consume their viewer; Modell uses highly nuanced pigmented layers to envelope and welcome the viewer. These are less fields and more windows into a singular moment of pure transparent hue.
HISTORY: Before some of Vincent Van Gogh most iconic works were created, Van Gogh undertook an exploration of the influence of the influx of Japanese woodblock prints coming into Europe in the second half of the 19th century. He obsessively studied and collected hundreds of woodblock prints with wide ranging subject matter. The Japanese depiction of natural landscapes, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, folk tales, erotic subject matter and much more, these “pictures of the floating world” or Ukiyo-e would greatly influence Van Gogh. He then began to recreate the prints within his own hand, over and over allowing the rules broken by woodblock artisans to influence and modernize Van Gogh’s eye of creation.
HOW: Each painting is loosely drawn and then like the Zen Buddhist painters, I wait for the ensō to happen. Ensō symbolizes a moment where the mind is free to simply wander while the body/spirit create. In working from this somatic sense the little oddities and surprises that come with the malleability of watercolor become pivotal in representing the flow state. Often it is the happy accident that reveals itself to be a spindly, spiny dragon or the stoic hawk ready for flight.
INFLUENCE: After reading about Van Gogh's exploration, I began to follow and paint in his footsteps. My curiosity was to see what Van Gogh learned from context, coloration, composition, and most importantly almost a heavenly view of common Japanese scenes of daily life. As I painted in his lofty steps, odysseys and tranquil reflective moments emerged from my transparent layers. The contemporary gaze and mastery of watercolor’s unforgiving malleability create archetypes informed by the past and rendered in today’s eye.
Abstract coming soon.