Friday, January 18, 2013

Susan Ross Studio Visit by Deborah Pohl

I visited Susan Ross’s 4th floor studio in Greenpoint on Sunday, November 11, in the early evening.  The hurricane pushed back our visit for a week, and I was so happy to be there and get back to normal life. Walking in, two walls of paintings created an atmosphere of color and rhythm, the work collaborating into a large installation.  My first impression was of color and of lots of amazing paintings and I was worried about picking the work for our show.  I tried to spend time with each piece as I walked around the room.  Each painting has a lot of individuality and its own contained rhythm.  Susan creates each piece starting with one color and slowly layers other colors and shapes over it, over many sittings, until it’s done.

Looking around the studio you can see some of Susan’s influences, with lots of books, including one on Arthur Dove and one on Indian miniature paintings. Susan shared reference photos taken in the course of daily life outside the studio.  Her influences are all indirect as she is looking for a feeling. Susan grew up overlooking the Hudson River, where the river and the cliffs and the sky would create blocks of colors.  Her work is informed by nature but not a literal interpretation of nature.  The energy of the piece is what’s important and its feeling.

As I suggested the first piece my confidence was bolstered as Susan reacted strongly.   It became really fun as we started moving the pieces around by choosing one piece and then another and then pretty much we were playing with the different paintings and putting them in different sequences.   Surprising how much one painting’s color and composition is affected by the work surrounding it.   I was going by color and Susan suggested trying one I never thought would work, and it really made the whole group come alive.

Susan’s work is dynamic and rhythmic. The pure color pulls you in as you become involved with the movement.   Placing the paintings side by side they start to talk with each other and you see the shapes move beyond the paintings.  The paintings are evocative of nature and at the same time, if you let them, personal projections. The oil color is beautiful and delightful to look at. I think you always learn about your own work when you really look at others’ work. We talked about our studios and how making art is affected by your life and working it into your life.  I think visiting each other alone creates a different dynamic allowing you to ask in-depth questions, share personal reflections, and really get to the bottom of an investigation.  We also discussed how to make art and balance it with all your other life roles, and inventive tactics we can use to support each other.