TONY ANTROBUS: How's the work going? Mark making can be obsessive and drive you mad sometimes. No narrative or planning something before hand can be fun and frustrating but it's what I do everytime I get to my studio or give it a good sweep and tidy up.
Respite from the symbol, like that phrase! Symbols can creep in, brains are hard wired.
Lineage of abstract painting is s tough one, I love lots of types of painting but my work is or has been inspired by a plethora of painters including Klee, De Heyl, Wool, Hilton, Nash and far more I can't remember.
Questions I'm addressing is hard to say, where I'm going is impossible as well. I think my work like lots of others is based in the Modernist painting template, and I find it difficult to overturn that habit. It's all a play of competing forces, qualities of colour, spatial arrangements, stuff which makes a functioning effective piece of work, well sometimes! I still throw away or recycle 90% of my work.
Great to talk to you

TONY ANTROBUS: Hello Catherine
Mental zero point, I suppose it's not really possible before starting painting or any piece of art. We have too many memories, muscle & cerebral, sensations etc to really do that not to mention emotional content which is always part of your brain working stuff out. Chance and subconscious directs much of my work, and lots of looking and waiting.
But does it stem from a fully formed place?
In painting a mark, a patch of colour, line can indicate what to do next, the problem is not to repeat yourself and catch yourself out. I like to think of Beginners Mind relishing the brush in hand, paint on the brush and the contact of the surface, whilst thinking of absolutely nothing allowing the body to interact with the material.
Look forward to your reply

Catherine Haley Epstein: Hello Tony,

Yes, beginner's mind. A beautiful and enviable place. And even the beginner's mind still reflects the very heartbeat, and psychology tied to the hand. On no uncertain terms we are either born acorns or mules. I think I agree with what you've said, only that I see when I act as a mule, I must stop and remember I'm an acorn:) This said in all seriousness. I've worked figuratively for YEARS and have recently moved forward with abstract work - right now my studio work is full of marks and gestures that have no narrative, but a gesture right now. I know this feels urgent, and I'm very much enjoying the respite from the symbol. Hence my connecting with you and others on the PL platform with respect to the abstract - where are you coming from? What questions are you addressing? And where do you see yourself in the lineage of abstract painting if at all?**

Thank you Tony again for sharing your thoughts and your paintings!

**One could rightfully respond - "why pull out the flower to inspect the roots?" - just let it grow, as I'm certainly doing in the studio! Cheers - C

Catherine Haley Epstein: Hello Tony! Thanks for posting your recent work here on P+L. I think this is twice in one week where I have read about an artist starting from a "mental zero point". While I love the idea of this, I'm rather jealous actually, I wonder if it's possible to reach a zero nadir point when starting new work. I've recently started a series of work explicitly on the idea of rhythm, pattern and chance. That said, after doing a handful it all seems to stem from a very specific place, not so much a zero place but a fully formed place. Do you see that in your work? Despite the desire to start with an empty canvas, all of the fully formed subconscious directs itself onto the canvas? Thanks again for sharing the work!


Nigel P : Hi Stuart & Catherine
So, I'm revisiting P&L after a short break and the first work and discussion I happen across throws up all sorts of questions and queries mirroring my own creative wrangles- so feel compelled to respond!

One thing, the reproduced painting P.W.U reminds me of a screen shot from an untuned analogue TV, with lines ghosting, delicately making and breaking pattern. Then I read the description "drawn into" and I chuckle, because I have been: caught staring at static again. I look again and try to think through how the lines were made - with a single point, a multi pronged implement, lots of different tools? Was there scrapping over, or repainting... how thick is the surface? I imagine slabs of paint like icing, with lines carved: a surface of tracks.

I'm musing about the nature of this painting and what the screen yields, I'm enjoying the pattern and controlled rhythm, when I read about Stuart's return to paint after years of making sound works, and the thing becomes some kind of score: maybe the surface is a flattened cylinder from an archaic phonograph....

I wonder whether the surface could be 'played' in some way, but reading on am distracted by what Stuart says of his degree experience - there's a flicker of recognition: I started my degree insisting on being a maker of things, and finished it (25 yrs or so ago) writing about Bladerunner and photographing shopping malls. What was it that closed down the options for making stuff? An arts education thing, a zeitgeist phenomenon?

I then read Catherine's question about Mat Collings and the recycled 'death of painting'. It's like a nostalgia hit - can see Collings Late Show docs from the early 90s, his roaming round Marfa, cosying up to Jeff Koons.... I'm actually thankful for all this, Collings' arts telly opened up a world for me, in the same way Berger did a few years earlier. I'm glad too, that Collings and Bell now make their finely nuanced patterned paintings, and I'm especially glad to be introduced to P.W.U- whatever the title stands for.

Stuart Dodman: Hi Nigel,

Thank you for your kind words, they really resonate with me, in fact - line, carve, scrape, rhythm, surface might be a better statement!

I'm not sure what it was about art education in those days, but by opening up everything it certainly closed down options for making stuff - the funny thing is the tutors who pushed everyone in that direction were very good at talking but creatively impotent. Where did you study?

Whatever it was I'm certainly still battling those education demons today...

It's funny you use untuned tv as quite a lot of my sound work used those frequencies and sign waves. In particular a work called TO which you can hear here if you like - http://www.stuartdodman.com/sound/

This series of paintings are all made using a small knife - action of the application of paint traced back into, apply again, trace back into etc. At the time I started the series I wanted to make base paintings - no colour, minimal technique, no image, one tool. I've also been thinking about image reproduction (specifically printing) and making the painting a printing matrix but haven't really fleshed this out. I'm obsessed with making them at the moment and haven't expanded the possibilities yet - I don't know if I will.

Your description is pretty spot on (paint like slabs of icing with lines carved) - drawn.

At the moment the relief of the lines in these paintings is too deep to be 'played' but I'm working on some things which certainly live in that world. But then I have my baggage to deal with so I'm not sure I'll ever share them and at the moment they feel more like an experiment than anything that excites me.

I do hope your creative wrangles don't get in the way. Although saying that sometimes some distance and letting life get in the way from producing can help.

P.W.U - refers to Metzinger

Nigel P : Hi Stuart

That was ace - just had a look and listen at your website. Can feel the correlation between the sound scapes and painted surfaces, like a stylus that keeps catching on the ridges.

We touched on education - think if I was back there now I would sue (well would need to recover the fees!) My degree came to be staggered across institutions in Wales and North: when I finally escaped it seemed like it was impossible to make stuff, and I ended up trying to disseminate whatever ideas I had about visual culture through adult education programmes. I think my time as an undergraduate gave me an odd sense of guilt about making, production, being creative...it's only in the last 5yrs or so that I've started to overcome that - I've pondered further formal study, but instead have a slightly cock-eyed autodidactic approach to learning - kind of developing thoughts online, with blogs and communities such as P+L.

I've been intrigued by sound works for a little while. As a young person I quickly learned I was tone deaf so musicality always seemed off limits as an expressive outlet. But hearing works by colleagues over the years has given me some idea of the dimensionality of sound, and at one point I even played with making my own layered recordings - trying to get to some sense of spatio/temporal distances involved....

Sound or more accurately, its erasure or absence, plays a part in current projects: I'm trying to make some approximation between Manet's Old Musician (heroically musical & poised but silent dispossessed outsider); the chromatic values of pagan ribbon trees as the staking out of unvoiced wishes and desires; and the mysteries of Saintly warning bells warding sailors away from rocks....its all vibrations and echoes.

Repetition and reprococity seem to play across your paintings and sound works - and I'm very taken with what you said about print making and painting as a form of matrix for print work. I've had the pleasure of seeing Jane Boyer's work on P+L and your words made me think particularly of her pieces Token and Versions:Matrix as possible fellow travellers along this road. You also reminded me of some college notebook dreams I had of making a kind of reading/writing machine - but thats another story.

Many thanks for showing this work, for you words and the resonances they've provoked.

Best wishes


Stuart Dodman: I hope I get the chance to hear some Nigel!

Catherine Haley Epstein: Hello Stuart!

These painting/drawings are terrific. Per your bio you mention you were making installations previously and are now primarily painting. Can you talk a bit about this decision? I fully believe painting remains an important medium in fine art, and have come across many nay sayers lately on the "painting is dead" topic. It's a tired argument, and Matthew Collings (a painter and critic) on your end of the planet has recently been pronouncing its death. Thoughts on the matter? In my humble opinion it's the most rebellious thing one can do at present, if done well. Lastly - can you speak to your color palette? I'm noticing the color versus the black and white - do you prefer one to the other? Thanks for considering my questions!

Stuart Dodman: Hi Catherine,

Wow, It's a trap!
I'm mucking about but that's a big question and as you say one that has been asked over and over again for many years. I first started thinking about it 25 years ago during my degree where I decided to stop painting, at the time I thought it wasn't open enough for me and why paint anyway it's all been done before and is completely irrelevant (it was dead then too) instead I'll read Blanchot and make art about making art.

In my case I don't think I made a decision to stop making installations and start painting again but the activity of painting became relevant for me again - I started painting and it became another part of a vocabulary.
The fact that I haven't stopped painting again plays on my mind more than the fact that I'm painting. I find painting difficult in every sense of the word.

I personally don't care what sound bites Matthew Collings has. I don't believe that thinking about if painting is dead (or sculpture/photography/drawing/installation/object/time-based/print/performance/film/sound etc etc) is productive or that relevant either. The most important thing is to make work, use whatever medium fits (of course you have to question, critique and answer why for yourself).
Each discipline is a tool to use and each are no more dead or alive than the other in the broader context. So I think that any question of death is ridiculous - I certainly do know that I don't know his definition - do you think he is talking about some kind of idea of what painting is or do you think he is talking about an old definition of what painting has been? Or is he talking about the art market machine? Or is he talking about being a painter? Or is he talking about moving things forward? Or is he saying that other things have more life or scope? I'm not sure and I think that's an important thing to understand.

I don't have a preference with colour. White I can manipulate for longer and it asks different questions of the viewer which I find interesting.

I hope some of that reads OK and thank you for looking and asking!

Catherine Haley Epstein: Thank you Stuart - very eloquent. I totally agree vis a vis Collings' comment, though I couldn't resist asking you about it, as artists we always need to find solidarity and principals for what we are doing.

I'm excited to see more of your work, and maybe one day in person. BTW - what does P.W.U. stand for?

Stuart Dodman: Thanks Catherine - that's very kind.

P.W.U - you'll have to fill those in yourself ;)


Ann Ploeger: Daniel,

I'm thrilled to hear from you and so happy you were able to see my prints at the Portland Art Museum.

Oh, that shutter click - how vital and how revealing of myself. Staging these portraits is me trying to control the image; the shutter click is the magic moment of spontaneity proving no matter how much I try to control things, there needs to be this divisive moment where the click dictates the final result: where it erases my preconceived notions about what I thought I wanted the image to be allowing it to become my art.

The "My Melinda" series has more of agenda than the other portraits in that I wanted one subject to be the many sides of femininity within the horror framework. The most successful images in the series are the ones where spontaneity played a major role; where there was freedom to explore within what I thought the images should be. I shot this series in my own house, so I had to look at my domestic environment as the stage. This was very challenging for me because "My Melinda" worked best when there were less props, less environmental clues because they ultimately distracted from the imagery.

"Ivey and Colin" is a great example of how the subject's home environment is a major player in my portrait photography and how important the objects are to the imagery's creation. The home and its pieces allow me to create this puzzle within my frame. I truly feel most present and alive when I get to create these images on the spot. Often I make a portrait in a home I've never been to before where my photographic eye is boss: I choose the space, often the attire, and yet the subjects and shutter clicks do all the talking. There is always an inherent truth to the portraits no matter if I know the subjects or not.

I love making both types of work. My portraits, like the one of "Ivey and Colin" come very easily to me. The "My Melinda" work was a lot harder for me to figure out, but the challenge of making the work informed my environmental portraits in an invaluable way. Controlling chaos is one thing, but trying to evoke emotional chaos through simplicity made me a better photographer.

Daniel Leng: Thanks for the generous reply. It's so interesting to hear you talk for the process, down to the words that you use to describe it. I think a lot of photographers who I've talked to empathize with the idea of trying to "controlling chaos", or trying to finding the decisive moment that represents of a what they're seeking, whether that's figurative or abstract. I love the idea of "evoking emotional chaos through simplicity" as a process description though. As a humble photography student, I find myself doing that in the darkroom, on the other side of the shutter click... trying to distill the ideas what were captured through controlled chaos... in order to create something that evokes... I don't think I've ever considered that what we evoke is "chaos" in the end, though it seems very accurate. A beautiful symmetry.

Daniel Leng: Ann,

I feel fortunate to have seen your prints recently in the Portland Art Museum and am thrilled to see more of you work here on Point + Line now. The installation at PAM was perfect to me, as viewing the prints in a dark room really accentuated the already vibrant images and stories that the work tells. Overall, I love the questions that your work asks so eloquently by navigating the line between real, hyper-real, and unreal.

I'm curious to know about your process for creating (or perhaps just unveiling) these "accidental unspoken narratives." I'd imagine that in the case of this image, which seems to be a bit more dramatic, outspoken, and purposefully staged, the concept and story preceded the image, but in the case of a portrait like "Ivey and Colin" (https://www.pointandline.com/works/1865), you might meet the family and let the people and objects lead the storytelling, perhaps even revealing unintended layers of meaning after creating the image.

Where does the click of the shutter sit in relation to the "making of the image" for you? Assuming this varies, is there one process for making images that is more rewarding to you? Why?


Catherine Haley Epstein: Hello Sarah! I'm enjoying looking at the latest works you have posted here. I am particularly interested in the combination of chance and formal qualities in your work. In your artist statement I see you mention a "ritualized process" when making the works - to what degree are you conscious of the formal (color for example) qualities of the work? At the beginning or the end? Or is it really more of an organic process fully based on chance or feeling? Have you always worked in colorful mixed media formats? Lastly - is this really to become a rug, or is this a conceptual rug? Thank you for posting the work!

Sarah Arriagada: Hello Catherine! Thank you for your comment on my Design for Rug series.

These assemblages bring together different found materials and pieces I made during the course of two years. Working on the screen prints on veneer I had little notion of what they would become and I let chance happen. However, I did have certain ideas in mind while making the stencils, choosing the colours and veneer surfaces. When creating the paper cuts, I was very much aware of the formal qualities of the pieces. However, both works – the screen prints and the paper cuts – were incomplete as such and so I kept them in folders. I viewed and combined them regularly with other work, wallpaper fragments and fabric. Meanwhile, I had been thinking a lot about the aesthetic and functional qualities of domestic rugs. Finally, a few weeks ago the assemblages made sense on a formal level and were completed. I would like them to become rugs, their scale to be blown up and their material quality to become entirely different to the paper, acrylic and wood veneer surfaces. Ideally, they would be approximately 170 x 240 cm and hand-knotted with a short pile wool. I would love to see them laying on the floor and be used to sit or lie on.

I have always worked in colourful mixed media formats, but have at times been more concerned with a particular medium, such as painting. The painting process is very similar to the process I just described. When I paint, I tend to work with layers of paint and patterned fabric. I also use stencils. In other words, I assemble different materials and media and alternately layer and remove them in order to arrive at a point of visual clarity.

Catherine Haley Epstein: Thank you so much for the generous response Sarah. I like how the foundation of your process is with paper cuts, screen prints and eventually using stencil - all methods usually reserved for precision work, all in the name of chance. I look forward to seeing more. And I do hope your designs find themselves on rugs and being used in a completely new way. Best of luck!!!

Sarah Arriagada: Thank you, Catherine!


Catherine Haley Epstein: Richard - I'm really enjoying seeing this work here. I wish I could be in this space to fully experience the work - yacht varnish? Terrific. Since I have seen your work years ago, where you were still working with vestiges of the figurative, can you talk about that which bumped you fully into the realm of the material and abstract? I find it fascinating with this work, as well as other works of this nature (Burri comes to mind though on a more intimate scale), that with all the focus on the material in the process, the result leaves the viewer to ultimately consider the immaterial, the spirit, and that which is not seen or felt. Thank you for posting these works!

Richard Zeiss: Catherine, excuse the delay!

Let me give you a quick run-own on what happened there...
Back in late 2012 I was feeling like I had hit a bit of a dead end in terms of research and decided to apply for an MPhil in Painting at the Royal College in London (i.e. a research degree; much like a PhD, but only 2 years). I applied with a specific project in mind, which collapsed pretty early on; as these things happen. I remember I ended up overpainting my canvases, and became curious how people reacted to what were effectively monochromes, and how my preference for egg tempera, which I make myself, could inform my research path from there on out. There was of course no way around delving into the Russian Avantgarde, what with their material-driven art production ("Productivism"!), and at some point, looking at the monochrome in the modernist canon, I came across an essay by Michael Newman on Agnes Martin, where he applied a concept created by the Belgian linguist Paul de Man, called pure, radical materiality, to Agnes Martin's work. Basically de Man talks about the material texts are made up of, i.e. letters - which, when reading, you have to forget in order to form meaning. The letters would be the pure, radical, non-phenomenal materiality. My question was whether and how that could be translated into visual art, especially painting (the crux being that this meant one would have to be able to see before seeing; Kant's apprehension and comprehension in the mathematical sublime can be brought to bear here). My way around has been the clash of material with strong external connotations that would be unlikely to meet in any given context. Like egg tempera ("medieval religious painting") and tarpaulin ("lowly material in industrial use"). The strong external referents would, to my mind, potentially erode and even delete each other, leaving you with pure, non-relational materiality. ("Pure Materiality In The Painted Linguistic Turn" was the title of my MPhil thesis)
In recent months I have expanded this field to questions like where literature and painting overlap, how so, etc. I have somewhat moved from de Man to Blanchot, whose double-negative of writing, i.e. literature, has fascinated me. Basically he rejects the idea of a stable meaning, but not only in deconstructivist terms, but beyond that. Basically every piece of writing establishes writing anew, and in a sense creates a microcosm with internal references, like vestors shooting back and forth; or indeed like a good science fiction story, that is completely unbelievable out-of-universe, but works perfectly in-universe. That is where I am currently at. Creating loops within works that consist of more than one piece on the one hand, and possibly fictionalising a project with a sci-fi twist.

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