Composing with Color Pt. 2
Oil on canvas
Across the street from the Harrison Center is Tinker Coffee Co. As I'm getting ready to go home in the evenings I'm struck by the scene of their storefront. The sleek and clean machinery presents a spotlit spectacle contrasted against closed businesses and mirrors. I began the painting at night, as the Indianapolis night life whizzed by me. I couldn't help but think about the lessons learned in John Lee's painting class.
At the beginning of one of my journals I kept during undergrad I inserted a few quotes from a handout John gave during one of his classes.
"As Perceptual Painters, looking at the observable world and attempting to analyze and mix the colors before our eyes, it is important to learn to see BEYOND nameable colors: primary and secondary colors, and learn to give a name to unnameable colors. Think of every observed color as being a primary, secondary, or tertiary. Rather than seeing gray, brown, white, or black (all of which are achromatic, lacking color)....SEE each color as having parents.....Remember that COLOR is the most difficult of the formal elements because COLOR is aways RELATIVE..."
I found myself faced with the challenge of color harmonies as they appear within individual objects and surfaces during his class. John in keenly aware of planar analysis in his painting and how to push the composition through planar fidelity and color invention. I find myself finding passages in his paintings that catch me off guard in a state of wonder; a wall may seem to use illogical color choices, but its construction is entirely reasonable. While looking at his paintings I find myself still in this world, but fascinated by flickering passages of light and color along surfaces which hold true to the relationship they exist within. On a macro scale I find the kinds of relationships in his composition between dominant and passive shapes (although I would never really call any of his shapes passive) similar to how blocks of color in Mondrian's paintings speak to each other.
John Lee sometimes spoke about the work of John Dubrow, and I believe there are overlaps in sensibilities. I move through both of their compositions noticing constellations of colors that reveal themselves over time, and I'm often pleasantly surprised by how as a single shape of color makes itself known long after the introduction. And then another. As a continuation of becoming accustomed to oil paint, I became very comfortable with a slab of paint, a blob of color finding its place in a composition.
By committing oneself to using specific color spots, a painter becomes keenly aware of how the eye moves over form and through space. Painting Tinker Coffee Co.'s roasting machinery was a way to bring the careful yet bold language of perceptual color spot painting together with the fresh and entrepreneurial spirit in the area to share the culture of 16th street. Observational painting cues us in to how meaning is shaped and shared in our world.