mixed media on raw linen, framed
28" x 61"
Transformation – the transformative power of nature and the human spirit –gives rise to fresh possibilities in dealing with whatever may come in life. Having survived medical challenges including not being able to walk for months following spine surgery, transcendence has a personal meaning for me. Interpreting that visually releases a creative power, an urge to explore and go beyond limitations. Think of the Indian divinity Shiva who represents both destruction and creation, and the idea of delighting in change instead of fearing it.
Bringing those philosophical abstractions into painting, my 2012 series “The Life of Fire” asked me to interpret the devastating force of fire as an opportunity to go beyond paint on canvas. I started the series with acrylic, ink and charcoal on the raw linen I’ve used before, and some pieces are similar to the techniques in last year’s water series; compare “Flying Fire” to “Flying Water,” for example.
But fire is transparent and defies boundaries. I sought alternate mediums I’d never explored before. Soon I discovered transparent plastics and layers of cut shapes. These became 3-dimensional when treated with paints, inks and mediums. So the fire series did what I’d hoped in transcending expectations.
How do you decide on your palette?
Over the past 3 years, my palette has changed. Back in 2009 my work was mostly monochromatic. I was doing sepia or black ink stains on raw linen to create subtle, ethereal landscape-like meditative scrolls. Color felt like a distraction, gaudy, or brash. I began breaking out of monochrome with the water series in 2011 that reveled in various blues. As that series developed, pinks and greens crept in and by the end the palette was more vigorous.
In 2012, fire demanded the obvious reds – a palette that was not initially comfortable for me. As the series grew, fire became yellow, orange, white, and increasingly blue as well. It’s the most colorful work I’ve done in a long time and signals a kind of emerging.
mixed media, plastics in plexi box
36" x 58"
What excites you about painting?
Exploration. The freedom of trying something new and discovering how wonderful it is when a shape forms in paint or a texture breaks and reveals a color beneath. In a world of tasks and necessities this is a place for wonder.
Besides the physical act of painting, there is a thrill when a new piece takes form in imagination and you just can’t wait to make it. Of course, then reality crashes in and the painting makes its own decisions. Your original idea might not look quite as you’d hoped, or maybe the materials offer something even better, and you’re off following a new direction. My process calls for flexibility in finding the painting, and that’s a healthy way to be.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as an artist?
Time. I work as a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and that’s a full-time job. I spend a year preparing for each art show, but weeks go by when my only chance to paint is a couple of hours very late at night. The wonderful time is a warm afternoon when I can work in my outdoors studio freely letting wet paint spill on the ground, and I lose track of the hours passing.
Pam Douglas's exhibition opens July 17, 2012