Studio Visit: Gordon Fearey

Gordon Fearey is an artist based out of New York. His work can be seen in PLEAT's December 2015 exhibition as well as gordonfearey.com.

What drives your aesthetic choices? 
My paintings are about the narrative of the brushstrokes. The transparency of my actions is important: I want the viewer to be able to see the sequences of strokes and how individual strokes are born, live, and die. Often, a stroke begins with a brush loaded with paint and ends when the brush runs out of paint. 
 
I'm influenced by theatre improv and the immediacy and drama that come from the unedited brushstroke. For any given stroke, I will choose a color, brush size and tasks to be accomplished once the brush starts moving, but leave other factors, such as the pressure, speed, and exact path of the brush, to come out of the heat of the moment. 

I’m also influenced by weaving and the feeling that weaving imitates structures of matter and space in the universe. I used to build sculptures by weaving sheet aluminum and I wanted to find a two-dimensional parallel in painting. The weave continues to resonate with me because it engages my body rhythmically in the strokes, brings out eccentricities of my materials, has a way of assimilating non-weave aberrations in the paint, and allows the warp and weft strokes to play out in time.

Do you feel as though viewers understand your work? To what degree is it important to you that they do or don't? 
First time viewers have intuited complexity and structure in my work without actually realizing what the structure was. Those who have taken the time to look may become intrigued with how I have made a particular painting – what came first, second, and so on; how colors mixed when they intersected on the canvas; what shows through the layers. A few viewers have intuited what I am doing in the largest sense, which is to try to show a person alive in the universe. It is very important to me that I communicate clearly and succeed in reaching viewers on one or more of these levels. 

Who are your artistic influences? What have you learned from them?
One of the most important influences on my work has been Brice Marden’s painting, The Propitious Garden of Plane (2000-2006), which hung in the MOMA lobby for over a year. It is a six-panel piece made of six colors. Each panel uses one of the six colors for a ground and the other five for the meandering lines and frames that make up each panel. What thrilled me was how Marden’s set of limitations enable and dramatize the improvised drawing in each panel. Although it took me years to realize it, that dichotomy – of the rational structure and irrational play – are central to the improv aspect of my work. 

The other important influence has been Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawings, which I saw at MassMoCA in 2008. These are executed by helpers from a set of instructions provided by Lewitt. What interested me was, first, how these rules could lead to variable executions depending on the venue (the improv theme again); and second, how the rules could be so explicitly spelled out in words (the transparency theme).