Conversation: Naomie Kremer and Dr. Stefanie Lucci
Opening July 2nd, 2010 at Von Fraunberg Gallery, Dusseldorf, Germany
Naomie, looking at your work is literally an experience. One has the impression that you are painting in a very fast manner that involves a moment-to-moment decision-making process. But looking longer at your work, it reveals a certain rationality, an inherent order in how the elements come together, how they are combined, they show sophisticated color relationships and complex patterns that come not by coincidence.
You get my work very well, Stefanie. You are the ideal viewer who looks closely and deeply and understands not just the end result but the process that must have preceded it. It IS an experience – to look with the body and the brain and memory, not just the eyes. I want the viewer to have a visceral engagement with the work, but first there has to be attraction. I use color rhythmically to direct the movement of the eye over the surface of the image. This is the way the medium of paint can be made to create unexpected relationships that are nevertheless satisfying, because we know viscerally that they are ³correct². But equally important, I want color juxtapositions that elicit surprise. This happens when colors seem literally to contain contradiction – like, a green red, or a yellow violet. In theory, these are impossible colors because when they mix you get brown.
The work looks ³fast² because the strokes are generally made quickly, but they are made one at a time And the time between them might not be so quick. In fact, sometimes there are months between them. The painting is made in many moments, added to each other till they embody space, or place. The time that it takes to make a painting, the invisible but perceptible history of its making is exactly what slows down the viewer. I donıt want to make a work that is perceived all at once, that can be remembered clearly. Because then what would be the point of keeping it around?
Please tell us a little about the process of making your art. Is it more spontaneous or is it both action and reflection? Also, how do you choose your motifs? What is your inspiration? Sure, one cannot describe your painting as narratives, but one can experience vague suggestions of landscapes, forest floors, ponds, streams, lush gardens You yourself talk about your painting as improvisations, which also brings music into focus So, how do they happen?
How do I start? I have started from many different sources over the years. I often listen to music while working, particularly contemporary classical but also other genres. The music helps me to enter the world of the painting, partly by slightly distracting me from it in a zen kind of way, so that my focus is not too ³determined² or ³willful². I need to get the process started and then to let it take its course - this is where the word ³improvisation² comes in.
Frequently, a painting is triggered by a photograph, and often my own photograph recording a place or event that affects me intensely and reminding me of its temperature, its colors and ambiance. Sometimes itıs a group of mental images that arenıt exactly in focus but which I can perhaps glimpse the color of So I start with the color, not necessarily knowing what itıs the color of. I donıt stay very long with the original image – itıs really just a starting point. Once the painting is begun, it takes on a life of its own, in relationship to my life of course. Some days we (the painting and I) are having a boisterous conversation full of bold utterances and unexpected consequences. Other days, we have a fight, and sometimes I lose. But even in that loss there is something from which to continue. An abstract painter is always looking for a reason to continue, particularly when the beginnings look good In our time, what is a finished painting? It could be one line. Or no lines at all. Itıs up to the artist. This puts a painter in a real dilemma, which is resolved in the work.
For me, the imagination of paint is incomparable to any other medium: It is both completely illusionistic and completely physical. Unlike video or film or photography, it requires nothing to exist in the real world from which to begin, except the artist. This is a huge burden, which artists have tried to rid themselves of in many different ways. Most extreme perhaps is Jackson Pollock ³throwing² paint at his canvases. I work in layers of moments. Starting is never difficult. I love to start. But to keep going you have to enter the world of the painting, and this is the effort. If you are truly in it, you canıt make ³mistakes². Detail is my way of entering.
While looking at your works, the eye is constantly moving. Your works are full of stunning visual energy and exceptional vividness. To quote the Greek ancient poet Ovid, who writes in his Metamorphoses: ³Nothing keeps its form, everything is in a constant state of flux.² One has the impression of witnessing evolution in fast motion, in which everything is constantly changing its nature and its form. So, nothing is of duration, even though we think in categories of duration, which helps us to create an identity and a consciousness of our unity within the dynamic nature of the world. Is it your intention to emphasize the fictional aspect of the idea of duration when you paint in a manner that evokes constant change?
Yes, I want to depict flux because it is true, but that is a contradiction in terms. Almost by definition, to depict flux you have to employ duration, which is not an attribute of painting. It can, however, be part of the viewing. As the viewer who spends the most time in front of my paintings, I am trying to invent ways of keeping myself, the first viewer, engaged. I do this partly by creating a rhythm of visual dissonance and consonance, through the use of color and shape. I try to inject time and duration into the medium of paint, but of course as you say, this is a fiction
While looking at your work, one has the impression that it is about painting itself and at the same time about perceiving the painting, that in a certain way explains itself when we take time to explore it. It seems to be also about habits of perception of art as well as the perception of life and the world and how we deal with the phenomena of time and space. In your all-over paintings, the traditional figure/ground relationship does not exist, spaces envelope us, we find disrupted spaces and spaces that generate themselves, and spaces in which time seems to double or multiply.
Yes, the paintingıs content supplies the opportunity for a perceptual experience. And that experience is also its content. To observe oneself observing is a kind of meta-state that can be physically pleasurable. But to go back and forth from that to a feeling of being inside a world that is familiar and strange at the same time – that is a full experience. I think time and space in our world ARE multiplied, and if I succeed in creating that reality in a painting then my work helps me to incorporate the world.
There are questions in the world of physics about the nature of time. The idea that some physical realities can only be experienced as a formula fascinates me. I am excited by visualizing phenomena that we know exist but which no one can see.
What is your perception or idea of time and space? Linear time and fixed space seems not to exist in your paintings. Time and space merge into one another, happening simultaneously. It seems that you refer to new modes of perception and experience like cyber-space, in which time becomes elastic and distances collapse. Is the discussion about perception of time and space a theme you deal with in your paintings?
I like to think about past and future and present all being simultaneous. And in painting they really are. A finished painting presents the accumulation of all the moments of its making into one surface, which is sort of unthinkable and strange. When you read a book or listen to music or see a movie, the stimuli enter in successive bits. Not so with painting.
When I look at your paintings, I have the feeling of memories that form before my eyes, some resembling reveries, which emerge in a never-ending process. They merge with my own memories. At that time I become an active part of the painting. It is like a conversation, in which nothing is fixed. The memories are constantly moving like the brushstrokes as well as the eye of the observer, who tries nevertheless to fix something, only to experience that this not possible. Past experiences that are still active in the present mix with present experiences in order to form new experiences. Is this somehow the philosophical as well as the psychological aspect intended?
Well, when perception takes place over time, as you continue perceiving your perceptions turn into memories (though very recent ones). Is that what you mean? We are constantly making memories, and their relationship to each other and our memory of these relationships defines whom we are. I think we are in a constant dynamic with our memories – what to preserve, what to submerge. Even so, it is not a process thatıs entirely under our control. And the things that trigger the most interesting memories are often almost subliminal. The metaphor Hemingway uses for writing applies as well to painting: Truth in art, he says, is like an iceberg; if you know the whole iceberg, you only have to show the visible part, and the rest will still make itself felt.
In a way one could say that perceiving your works is a journey, a passage through time and spaces, which happens as a phenomenon that cannot be separated. Your paintings evoke memories, which involve the spectator in an active role. And your paintings are a statement on the constant state of flux, in which things change their appearance in short sequences. All this is characterized by a vivid process. Can one say that your paintings embody the process itself and the surface serves only to give at a certain point a glimpse of what is lying behind the paint?
I couldnıt have said it better myself.