Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I enjoyed my visit to Liz Ainslie's studio in Williamsburg. Her paintings are a pleasure to look at, and they made me think about how paintings are made and the history of painting. The longer I looked, the more I saw, and over time things I didn’t notice at first became subtly compelling. 

What I was struck by right away was the works’ relatively modest scale, and what seemed to be references to cubism, still-life, and modernist abstraction.  Liz and I had an interesting discussion about painters and art history.  She cites Cezanne, Vuillard and Ellsworth Kelly as influences, and is interested in Post-Impressionism and Minimalism.  The base of the paintings consists of neutral colors that might make one think of modernists like Morandi or Cezanne. But Liz is equally influenced by her everyday contemporary world and culture -- hence the interruptions of saturated, almost day-glo colors.  The bright color often takes the form of a line which delineates forms and suggests space, while always breaking down any coherent spatial system. The forms are mostly cuttingly angular.  The neutrals and brights coexist in a kind of harmonic feud, and there are beautiful subtleties of similar values and colors – part of what makes prolonged looking so rewarding.

I was curious about her process.  Liz described it as something both felt and achieved over time: a mixture of research, experimentation and practice. She has a strong background in color theory, but employs an intuitive and personal approach to color made up of particular systems and habits acquired through the experience of working. 

I find Liz's paintings to be rare and refreshing in the context of our times.  They are obviously hand-painted, bypassing the gloss of the digital age. By her own words, she is “not a hard edge painter.”  She avoids a slick facture,  going instead for a handmade look and an almost rough, matte surface.  Brushstrokes are often visible over a warm reddish underpainting.  I feel that the work displays a beguiling combination of humility, vulnerability and restraint.  

The painting I chose for the Collectively Assembled show is one of Liz’s most recent.  The palette is a combination of darks and bright blues, and to me it exemplifies the unfolding contradictions and mysteries of her work.  

To see more of Liz Ainslie's work:

Read more about her process here: