Among my recent paintings most are unabashedly about painting itself. In these I try to create scenes that invite the viewer not only inside the studio with the painter, his tools and accoutrements, but also inside the world of the painter's imaginings. An alternate universe of beings and non beings takes shape in the fictive space around him in diaphanous, free-floating images that are variously familiar and fantastic, allusive and abstract. I use techniques of blurring and overlapping transparencies which are crucial to establishing a context of spatial ambiguity where realness and abstraction can coexist and merge.
Contemporary painters I admire most do two things. They try to reconcile the great figurative traditions with modernist abstraction and they draw beautifully with the paint. Diebenkorn, deKooning and Lucien Freud sometimes achieve the former and always the latter. Gerhard Richter, arguably one of the most admired “paint handlers” of our time shuns any attempt at synthesis. A switch hitter, he keeps his photorealism and painterly abstraction at opposite poles which seems to me a diminishment in that it avoids taking a stance on the philosophical questions “what should a painting be” or “what is the irreducible essence of painting.” The critic Clement Greenberg famously said the irreducible essence of painting is flatness. Others, like Barbara Rose, said no, it's illusion, the illusion of three dimensions on a two dimensional surface. I think it is both and that they contest. And what makes this important is that painting, among all the visual arts, has the potential to best express the tension between these two opposites, between flatness and illusion. It is a contest that all good painting enters into and is energized by regardless of stylistic orientation.
Right now, in the major art centers and art museums, international exhibitions like the Venice Bienale, painting has taken a back seat to installation, performance, video and other mixed-media concoctions in the minds of curators, gallery directors and critics. I find this understandable in that painting is a hard thing to do well and arguably has a longer learning curve for younger artists starting out than some of the so-called “reform” media but it still makes me sad. I've been painting for many years and am defensive about the status of my medium in the art world pecking order. I see part of my mission as trying to counteract some of the prevailing imbalance.