In 2006, I retired after 35 years of teaching art and administering university art departments, and immediately set about to paint over earlier paintings gathering dust in my studio. I started over not simply by rolling white paint for a new painting ground but by applying geometric shapes and stripes of color arbitrarily and malleably with a pallet knife, ridding the new work of any reference to anything outside of itself. Shapes and colors in contrasting directions and patterns gave the old paintings new meaning, as each arrived again at self-sufficiency. Out of this process of deconstructing my earlier work there developed a new direction of thought and gave rise to a new series of paintings.
Reconstructing Deconstructing Jerry
This process of repainting old work soon resulted in a reconstruction of the deconstruction. In other words, I applied the same method on new rather than used canvas. The resulting work minimizes shapes and patterns in favor of direction and emphasizes color in diagonal stripes. These deliberate choices maximize the visual acuity on an all-over, densely painted surface void of forms and minus a focal point. One-inch wide masking tape is applied in diagonal, parallel lines, alternating one stripe taped and one stripe uncovered. These taped and non-taped stripes fan out in bands over the surface of the entire painting. In this way, half of each painting is painted with randomly selected color while the other half is masked with tape, which is repeated to paint the remaining unpainted canvas stripes. It isn’t until all of the surface is covered in painted stripes and all of the tape has been removed that I can look at the painting holistically and determine what can be done to make it into a finished work. After observation and extended thought I repaint where stripes need harmony or contrast with changes in hue, value, saturation or temperature chosen critically. For some paintings, this resolution, this Gestalt, is fairly fast, and for others it takes a while to complete. It could be days or weeks.
The subject of a painting is the result arrived at in the making of a painting. Flat, unmodulated paint applied with technical precision is how one is made and color distilled-to-resonance is what each one is about. Once brought to a visual oneness nothing can be added or taken away, and the painting exists on its own plane. But, why should it come into being?...because Kandinsky's "inner necessity"...the itch which urges demands it. I want to see what a new painting looks like. And, I would like for others to see what it looks like, too.
My father once told me, “Son, if you live long enough, you’ll get old.” Now, retired from the time-consuming nature of employment and living in bonus time health-wise, painting has the importance it first had, but without the driven purpose. I no longer have anything to prove. Painting is finally free.
Jerry Walden 8/20/12