Logan GriderSwarthmore, PA
I’ve been fascinated with relief the last three years and began carving, looking a lot at the Assyrian reliefs at the Met, and how they seem like a really beautiful medium to describe the space between painting and sculpture. That slippage between when something is a thing and when it’s an empty space. So I started carving basswood blocks at home, some butternut, then thinking about the potential for the paintings to be built around the relief.
These first, more dimensional paintings started off as literally putting up the relief block next to an existing painting. What could be a connection between these two worlds?
Painting on an dimensional object was a whole new experience; I had to think about light and color in different ways because of how light is trapped on a 3 dimensional support vs a planar support. I’m thinking about how I can break down the surface and control light with hues coming really close together but ultimately being separate.
I’ve been working a lot with the backside of Masonite although sometimes the texture gets lost or buried.
The panels are not well made, they’re very matter of fact. I make a lot of things out of found wood. You can see on the back the painting was a different shape and orientation. I put it back on the table saw and ripped it in half and rebuilt it. An orthopedic surgeon could make better decisions about panels, they’re not elegant. They’re very reactive to what’s there.
Ground: Some of it is lead ground (Winsor & Newton), some of it is PVA, some acrylic. I’ll PVA or rub it with some rabbit skin ground, they’re all very different.
Paint: The thing that I like about grinding my own pigments into paint is that it gives me the ability to make adjustments. It’s cheaper and I just think it’s more enjoyable than to squeeze paint out of a tube. If you want the light to come off a surface in a certain way it’s better to make the paint yourself. Most of my pigment comes from Kremer, and then I buy a range of everything else for different reasons. For oil I use refined linseed, sometimes walnut or poppy for the whites.
I don’t have long blocks of time in the studio, and I get panicky and rush through things. I can make some paint and it causes me to slow myself down or I’ll make some paint for a specific painting.
Flake white is the only white I use and it’s getting so expensive so I’ve started making my own. I just don’t think there’s anything like lead white, nothing comes close to it. I’m corroding my own lead sheets that I’ve cut up and coiled into glass surrounded by other jars of white distilled vinegar. I use Fleischman’s yeast starter mixed with warm water and sugar to generate carbon dioxide which mixes with the gases omitted from thevinegar. That, in turn, starts corroding the surface. Eventually, in 3-4 months, the lead will corrode all the way through. I’ll put a respirator on and I’ll crunch it all up, grinding it finely into dust and combine it with oil.
In the Renaissance, pigments were ground by hand with big stone mortar and pestles and the pigment sizes were very different than today’s uniformly machine-ground paint. When you see those Venetian paintings in person the surfaces just glow. Paint has gotten to the place where light now is hitting the surface of paintings and that’s how the color is coming across rather than light passing through the actual paint film, refracting and scattering off a lot of particles, and back. That’s where you get all of the brightness. It’s not like they had some kind of hidden trick, its just that the act of paint making was really different.
Mediums: I used to use a lot of driers and alkyds but I stopped completely; I felt like I wasn’t in control. With this constant glossy surface the color won’t be totally legible because the light is reflecting off of the surface.
The Tixogelreally is a kind of game changer. It’s really light, so you have to use a respirator, but you basically saturate it in oil and it turns into a paste. I mix it in with a knife and it adds body to the paint really quickly. It creates a particular surface. I’m also adding things to make it rough, like marble dust, some mica, different grades of sand, some ground glass (from Guerra). The glass is really finely ground, it’s not shimmery, it just makes it kind of velvet and it seems to absorb more light.
Brushes and Tools: I use brushes and knife and a combination of both to get the surface exactly how I want it. I love using a mahlstick. I have a shaky hand so I use it to get an edge and because some of the supports are dimensional too it gives me a place to rest my hand; it helps me get a little more careful.
Process: I’m not naturally a comfortable painter, I mean I mix one color with a knife and work really indirectly and slowly that way. I don’t ever have a full palette; I literally mix one color at a time. They’re thin but there are a lot of coats. In letting layers dry, I’m able to slow down and see areas that have potential. Slowness is important.
I find one area where the surface or the color works and it seems appropriate to the shape and the rest of the painting has to follow it or else it just doesn’t work. They’re slow. It takes a while for the surface to be right with the color because the surface is pretty important. If the surfaces aren’t active the more sculptural things will just dominate the painting.
I’ll work on the wall and on the sawhorses flat. I’m deliberately trying to shift the way I’m starting the painting. With the reliefs, part of working on these is that I take them home from the studio and I cut them up and augment them into different iterations. I’ll make painterly decisions but in a really inefficient way on a band saw or a table saw. The panels come back and forth.
There’s something about that awkwardness in dealing with something that is so obviously dimensional; it’s kind of integrated but I also let it stand apart. And then there are moments where the paint feels more physical than the relief and that’s exciting. There’s also the potential for the relief to have more illusionism in pictorial space than the more traditional painting.
I’m interested in how language has a hard time describing, with words, something that is very experiential, the experience of coming up against these things, absorbing light absorbing color, the weight of a shape coming up against another shape. There’s something very primal about balance and proportion.
Reference Artists/Artworks: Susan Frecon, Munch woodcut prints, Guerra Paint, Kremer Pigmente, Morandi’s drawings, Albers’ Hommage To the Square, Assyrian reliefs
Artist website: www.logangrider.net