In the Studio: Sound & Silence

Sometimes the studio can be a fairly raucous place. Sure, there is plenty of time spent sitting, staring at stuff in progress, waiting for the motivation, energy or clarity required to make the next move. But when things are in motion, it becomes a place where much happens at once, and where actions are often accompanied by a din of sound -- thick, layered and pulsating, moving in and out of focus -- symbiotic with the labor, the color and viscosity of the painting process. Recently addressed works in progress lay drying under large fans -- the more stuff to dry, the louder the dense hum of the fans. The louder the fans, the louder the music -- overtones of both combining and colliding to form disembodied drones. Often during a cycle of work, one piece of music will be played over and over for the entire duration -- the repetition seeming to deepen the focus -- the music sustaining a specific poetic relationship with the decisions being made.

But then, at a certain point in the process of each painting, it is necessary to completely change the atmosphere. Guston once talked about the the whole laborious painting process leading up to the final fifteen minutes when everything comes together. Well, it may be more than fifteen minutes, but the final stage of each piece is indeed where it all happens -- the culmination, the payoff -- and it is the most relaxed and satisfying part of the process. That's when the music and the fans are turned off -- when a different, more acute focus kicks in. There is only the sound of the trowel sliding across the surface, the taps and clanks of tools and paint buckets on the table as they are chosen, discarded, shuffled around -- a subtle awareness of the sound and rhythm of my own breathing and the scuff of my shoeheels on the concrete floor. In this zone, several hours can pass in an instant -- and the expanse, the stillness, the silence that is the essence of painting becomes a physical presence in the room.