Erin McIntosh Sweet Air, 2016
Color belongs to American painter Erin McIntosh like no other, as if it some kind of mined stone, impasto patterning, lush watercolor in crystalline lattices, wet pigment, illustrations of a kind of botanical fantasy. She notes: I use color and color relationships that “sing” to me.”
Erin is an American painter whose abstract work has a resplendent beauty to it, the clouds and ellipses of paint forming patterns and vignettes of a fantastic world without form distinguished somehow by an elusive sensuality. McIntosh works in Athens, Georgia and often makes several paintings at a time, circling back to ideas and pieces, using acrylics, watercolor, and gouache on paper, canvas and panel supports.
“Incorporating a variety of techniques, I move back and forth between very improvisational mark making and form-finding and more controlled, calculated moves.”
The resplendent Torso Garden Indigo and Warm Violet Garden, 2016 were made during Erin’s summer residency at the Vermont Studio Center. The work reflects her conversations with artist Alison Saar. In these works, Erin newly refers more explicitly to motifs and forms, and looks to Ernst Heckel’s Art Forms in Nature.
One of the most extraordinary groups is Erin’s five-year long series such as Painting in the Rain and Zoe (2014) Over the last five years, Erin has also focused on a group of paintings that function meditatively. Methodically configured, the Monet inspired works have passages of previous work, the former details obscured and erased. The artist notes that the success of the works is in part because of “the vastness of space, the lack of a horizon line and the flattening of space as well as color relationships.”
The artist has laid out biomorphic yet simplified translucent shapes in these explorations of color, layering, transparency and light made with glazing mediums all made during the Vermont residence. A study and exploration of a deliberate layering, and the use of organic images, the series includes paintings begun in watercolor wash, taking the form of an abstracted torso, others still derived from in part the work of Ernst Heckel.
Erin’s geometric constellations began in 2008 and serve as an exploration of geometric forms symbolizing crystals, protein structures, veronai diagrams, and present an imaginative view of invisible space. New embodiments of this “realm” are composed in acrylic and oil pastel, the process a building of texture and layering of mark making.
RB: Your artist statement points to an interest in thematics I often associate with Kandinsky and Bauer, that lyrical geometry, the dance of shapes, lines and rhythms, the use of a combination of flat areas of paint, and more elemental treatments. Your thoughts?
EM: I have a background in dance so movement is important to my outlook. Painting to me, is like a dance, you constantly are moving but you are responding to what is happening with your partner, it’s a dialogue, back and forth between me and the materials, what is unfolding through each move.
In fact, these are all things I am interested in – I studied the work of Kandinsky when I was first exploring abstraction. I think that abstract painting communicates similarly to music. I also think of my paintings as lyrical, in terms of process and the final product.
RB: Beyond these formal considerations, what part of your own self exists in these paintings? Can you elaborate on your concept of the paintings as imaginary independent worlds and the haptic experience of depicting the visual?
EM: I have become increasingly detached from my paintings over the years. When I first began painting seriously, they were explorations of self and “self-expressive” but over the years, I have moved away from this. The paintings are now their own worlds with their own imagined spaces — a world with a logic but that this does not feel connected to my inner world, so to speak. I am interested in making something about a visual experience.
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