Susan's "subject matter, context and medium...present a coherent artistic vision"
John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

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Seymour Chwast

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Depingo Ergo Sum

“Depingo ergo sum” is my artistic reworking of Rene Descartes: “I paint, therefore I am.” In addition to this being the title of my blog and the raison d'etre of my existence, for many years it alone served as my artist’s statement. Every time I attempted to write my statement, the words to explain what I was painting just wouldn’t come. I finally figured out why.
My paintings are my artist’s statement. To me, a written statement seems like the last refuge of the artistically destitute. If we need words to explain what we have painted, then we have painted it wrong. Painting has its own language, with pigments as words, brushstrokes which spread the words, light, and whorls, splashes and shapes forming passages. Artists may start out with guiding concepts, but in the end, the finished work, the painting, always speaks for itself.
A painting speaks differently to each viewer. That is why any content or narrative imposed by the artist is a false construct, subservient to the painting. A painting is a three-way transaction among the artist, the painting and the viewer. If I impose content as a device in my painting, what difference does it make if in my absence someone with an entirely different frame of reference views it from a totally different point of view and takes from it an entirely different meaning? To illustrate this, consider an artist who is an animal rights activist and a hunter viewing her painting of a deer.
While I admire the sincere sentiments of message artists who write that they are painting to promote world peace or some similar cause, I believe they are in the wrong field.. They should be in advertising where it is appropriate and desirable to deliver a clear and unambiguous message through art. Fine art, on the other hand, should be more poetry than prose, translucent rather than transparent, and wide open to interpretation.
Technically, I use multiple layers of acrylic paint mixed with varnish on moderate to large scale linen canvas. I retard the drying time of the acrylic pigment so I can work “wet on wet,” but utilize its fast-drying nature to hasten the buildup of the glazes. For painting inspiration, I refer to nature, animals, life models, personal photographs, visual memories and imagination. They all inform me during the initial stages of the work, but as the painting progresses, I rely less on these constructs and allow the painting itself to inform me as to what is needed.
My current work explores my own personal mythology in an alternate universe which I have named Foxglove. It includes landscapes and portraits of the inhabitants, both human and animal which reside there and explores their interrelationships. While painting, I never think of what I am rendering by its name–a device I learned in my earliest drawing classes with Jack Potter. An arm is not an arm. It is a shape. An arm, the shape rather, is simply a hook–a hook on which I hang my paint. I am therefore painting neither arms nor concepts; I am painting shapes. And shapes, as part of the language of painting, go on to form the passages in my work and provide a fertile ground for each viewer’s unique interpretation.
Still, Depingo ergo sum.

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