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david slader
art letter | no. 7. 2019 | September
talking paintings

When I am asked, “What are your paintings trying to say?” I reply, half-teasing, “The moment one of my paintings starts to say anything, I’ll turn it into a still-life. That’ll shut it up.”  The fact is that I am uncomfortable with the notion that art needs to make a “statement” and that artists need to intend a message. Mine doesn't and I don’t. Clearly, my work reflects something about me at the time it is made, but I’ll be damned if I know or care what it is.

This painting is “Landscape with Four Houses.” For several months I have been wrestling with her, pulling her nature from a flat surface of shapes and pigments. She has bedeviled me, emerging in fits and starts—without either the guidance or the limitations of a plan.
Landscape with Four Houses - David Slader
What am I looking for? There must be some reason why so many creative decisions are erased and why it can take months of trial and error until I am satisfied enough to scratch my name in the paint. A painting that works asks you to ask, to stop, wonder and inquire: Have we met? Join me for a dram of Scotch? It becomes a character in a story—and once that painting is off my easel, it lives only through the person looking at it.

But, how does it all start?
a scent of rose des vents
A work of art begins like a river, from a thousand sources, most of which are off the map of memory. But sometimes one tributary can be identified. In this case it was a full-page perfume ad in a Sunday New York Times portraying a pretty young woman with a smoldering come-hither look.  
Louis Vuitton perfume ad
This is a strong photo by French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier (© 2016-authenticpubs), the composition and the posture intrigued me. I tore off the page and added it to a pile of clippings. In time, I came back to it and started to draw.  
Landscape With Four Houses - sketch - David Slader
When I am working with ideas from a commercial photo—an other artist's work—I often reverse the image. That helps me respond to only the elements that engage me. The delicate, Lolita-like, features of the photo gave way to a cool self-possession, and the model’s seductive “I can be yours” message was supplanted by a look more like “Don’t mess with me.”  
Over a period of months, pigment was applied and often scraped clean as experiments with colors and shapes transformed and re-transformed her countenance. Mark, wipe, mark. Gradually, non-essential features melted into the background and abstract geometric details claimed parking places on her face and figure. 
As for her name: Landscape with Four Houses?  Best not to ask.  She chose it . . . and she is not someone I am going to argue with. 
a troubled soul

Two years ago, I shared my Gallery 114 show, "Human Being," with an incarcerated painter, Bernard Patrick ("B. Pat"), a brilliant artist and a troubled soul. B. Pat was released from prison a few months ago. He was in his mid-60's, not old, but his body was already failing. He died a couple of weeks ago, still struggling with the burdens of freedom.

B. Pat is the closest to an artistic genius I have ever known. His talent was raw, intense, honest, a testament to the inherent capacity of the human spirit for visual expression. He had had no art lessons, no teachers other than the turbulent experience of his own life. This is what Jean Dubuffet called “Art Brut.” B. Pat’s life was a mess—much of it spent “in a cage . . . in the realm of hell”—and not always as honest as his art. Ah, but what art it is. It cries to be seen. 
Human Being - B. Pat
Art is where we
find ourselves
by losing ourselves
Learn more about my art
Learn more about Gallery 114
Artist member of Gallery 114 Portland Oregon
Copyright © 2019 David Slader artist, All rights reserved.

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