| Lisa Williams: I remember first encountering your work about five years ago. Since then, it has undergone a gradual paring down of color and shape, becoming more fluid and self-assured. Can you talk about some of the changes in your work?
Amy Feldman: In many ways my paintings are about overcoming the anxiety of their own construction. I used to plan much more than I do now and would measure and tape out many more lines. I was easily thrown off when something didn’t work out as I has intended. But lately I’ve become much more interested in the areas of the painting that weren’t “working”.
“But lately I’ve become much more interested in the areas of the painting that weren’t “working”. I rely on quick off-the-cuff marker on paper sketches and trust that the immediacy and direct execution of the drawings will transfer to the paintings.”
Amy Feldman, Double Triple Dead Ringers, 2010. Acrylic and spray paint on canvas Diptych: each component 60″ x 66″. Courtesy of the artist.
In Conversation: Lisa Williams Interviews Amy Feldman
Lisa Williams: I remember first encountering your work about five years ago. Since then, it has undergone a gradual paring down of color and shape, becoming more fluid and self-assured. Can you talk about some of the changes in your work?
Amy Feldman: In many ways my paintings are about overcoming the anxiety of their own construction. I used to plan much more than I do now and would measure and tape out many more lines. I was easily thrown off when something didn’t work out as I has intended. But lately I’ve become much more interested in the areas of the painting that weren’t “working”. I rely on quick off-the-cuff marker on paper sketches and trust that the immediacy and direct execution of the drawings will transfer to the paintings.
LW: What about reoccurring motifs in your work, like the triangular form you mentioned is traced from the corner of your worktable? I’m curious as to what motivates the use of this shape, whether it evolved as a compositional device borrowed from your studio, a signifier of a type of domestic ‘woman’s work,’ or something else altogether?
AF: The triangular chevron shape in my paintings that gets repeated, truncated, and morphed into new forms was initially derived from a photograph of the corner of my dining room table. I have a tendency to take snap shots of meals I make for family and friends and some of my inspiration comes directly from the history of feasting and the way food is decorated and served. I like that the triangular shape you mentioned has its roots in a domestic setting and I use other shapes, like the diamond, and the “X” and “O” in this manner as well. Over time, these shapes have been transformed into formal devices that initiate the composition of my paintings.
LW: Just as these shapes and letters morph in and out of legibility, they also seem to be in-action or in-progress of accumulating, folding, opening, spilling, transgressing borders, meeting and mixing with abutting planes and opposing colors. How does your style speak to formal rigor or propriety versus a total relinquishment of control?
AF: My work embodies a range of spatial, historical, and emotional structures. I think about propriety and impropriety and levels of appropriate and inappropriate behavior a lot in my work. The moments on the surface of my paintings when the paint drips or misbehaves reject the rules of etiquette. The paintings on the whole, however, are very much in-control. Recently, I have begun to isolate these moments of impropriety. This process has led me to the work I am doing now–pairing down color and form to highlight and applaud remnants of misconduct.
LW: I like the idea of misconduct with regards to the behavior of medium, not to mention artmaking! Along those lines, you’ve also deconstructed the rectangular, planar surface with shaped stretchers and cut canvas.
AF: The circular and trapezoid shaped paintings you are referring to are the bones of my former works. In these works positive/negative/figure/ground interactions are confused and commemorate salvaged histories anchored by geometry. In Three Tondos to Cure a Working Space Hangover the quirky line and its dribbles create new margins that reposition ‘the edge’ of the painting. The dark grey areas are funny symbols of negation and create positive signifiers that appear to have almost deleted a previous work. What is leftover can be seen glowing through diamond, triangular and cruciform-shaped viewfinders depicted on the surface.
LW: There is a clear self-awareness in the work, a consideration of its position and space relative to the viewer…
AF: Yes, Double Triple Dead-Ringers, for instance, is a diptych comprised of two non-rectilinear supports. Initially this form was derived from the truncated triangular shape I mentioned earlier. When the work is installed on the wall, the space in between the two supports creates an entirely new space and the presence of the viewer is required to reconstitute it.
LW: In your largest works, like Whole, brushstrokes seem to require full extension of arm and brush, as if enacting a form of écriture feminine, inscribing the feminine body in space and material. How are you guided to decisions regarding scale?
AF: The scale of my paintings regards the scale of the body and the architecture of the space. I am interested in making abstract paintings that exaggerate material and formal concerns to consciously show off their femininity. Increasing the scale of my work has allowed me to play with schemes of power. The paintings can be confident and sexy and still retain a sense of humor. LW: Returning to aspects of geometry in your work, are you thinking about modernist precedents, about playing with their formal tropes?
AF: Yes, the modernist project has been punctuated if not characterized by experiments in flattened, geometric form. My paintings undermine the logic of geometric stability, dismantling notions of solidity. This is evident in my most recent work when soft-uneven-wobbly lines masquerade as hard edges. The edges are created by expressive gestures and appear to be melting! The integrity of ‘the edge’ is questioned and figure/ground relationships remain ambiguous, further complicating notions of objectivity and subjectivity.
Amy Feldman, Ever After, 2010. Acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 80″ x 90″. Courtesy of the artist.
LW: Finally, how do you feel about the project of painting today?
AF: I am excited by the project of painting and think it is a viable medium to continue to explore. There is an inherent radicality in being a painter because there is all this history to contend with and repurpose. Recently, it seems like there has been a shift in art, and artists are returning to “medium-specific” practices. Abstraction is on the rise! Artists seem to be interested in conceptual projects that disband hierarchies and also engage material. My work adjusts its conceptual frame to contain, rely on, and react against the physicality of the paint. It cannot exist without the terms of its own content or the history of the medium.