Studio Visit: Patricia Spergel
Patricia Spergel is an artist based in New York. Her work can be seen in PLEAT's June 2015 exhibition as well as patriciaspergel.com.
How does self-exploration coincide with non-representational imagery in your work?
I approach painting as a diaristic language that is informed by my environment and my experiences. Although I have flirted with painting landscapes and still lifes over the years, I always come back to abstraction; painting non-objectively continues to challenge and excite me. It allows me to draw from my personal experiences, while keeping my focus on the formal qualities of paint. The paintings are composed of fluid, organic forms, often derived from the human body or landscape, which crowd together, float or overlap creating eccentric compositions filled with color and light. These abstract shapes hover on the verge of becoming recognizable, tangible objects. The images evoke stories about themselves that are just outside the complete grasp of full detection and understanding. I am really interested in the associative qualities of oil paint on canvas or printing ink on paper. There is a magical transformation that occurs in the midst of a good painting session—a portal into a calmer and more meditative space, not unlike the sense of concentrated awareness of one’s body in space and time that one attains after years of yoga practice. We are constantly bombarded with images on social media, on television and in print ads that demand rapid digestion. I want my paintings to slow the viewer down—to help them find a moment of contemplation and beauty in our frenetic society.
Who are your strongest artistic influences? What have you learned from them?
At the moment, the books I’m looking at in my studio are Martin Puryear, Walker Evans, Francesca Woodman, William Baziotes, and Mary Heilmann. The huge Sigmar Polke retrospective at MoMA last spring left me feeling inspired to take more chances and to work more quickly. In the past, I’ve also carefully looked at the work of Richard Diebenkorn, specifically the early abstractions from Albuquerque and Berkeley, and I also tend to look at photography a lot which is why I am excited to be paired with Marie Tomanova. When I study an artist I try to see how their work has evolved but also stayed true to its earliest inception—how that particular artist took their vision/ passion and mined it deeply. I also study how the paint has been applied, or the lines have been drawn or how the light bounces off a surface in a photograph.
What influences the color in your paintings? Is there a specific system you use?
The color in my paintings develops intuitively as I work and there is no specific symbolism. However, I am very influenced by my environment- both natural and man-made. Ideas for colors can come from the painted metal of amusement park rides, crumbling walls, the route markings (red for busy roads, blue for water, etc) on my car’s GPS or the way the light hits the landscape. I also swim laps at an indoor pool and the orange rescue tubes, neon colored kickboards, turquoise tiles and black lane markings work their way into my consciousness as I move through the water. After my first pass of paint onto canvas, the colors then become a reaction to what is on the canvas and the work often changes dramatically from its initial underpainting. I also use color intentionally as underpainting so that various hints of bright color peek through layers much in the way your eye might move around a tree in bloom seeing blips of bright color flitting around