During recent weeks in the studio I’ve realized there is a sub-text weaving through my current paintings that has relationship to high and low “taste” and the nature of decoration. Decoration implies the domestic and not the quotidian but an idealized and “gussied up” version of the everyday from the pages of an interior design magazine. Taste is then implied. High style, low style, street style, and the choices made which reflect on personal taste and the quality of that taste.
The paintings I’m making right now following my own post-analog rules are dense with pattern and form (the sgraffito layers require it) and those element recall the impulsives of the Pattern and Decoration movement. Ben Johnson describes their paintings in this way: “Pattern and Decoration did not distinguish between background and foreground, nor did it emphasize specific aspects of the composition. Rather, much as the abstract paintings of the time, it covered the canvas from edge to edge in an all-encompassing design. At the outset of the movement, Pattern and Decoration artists reacted against the severe lines and restrained compositions of minimalism. Yet, they often retained the same ‘flattening grid’ frequently employed by Minimalist painters.”
My references have been very similar. Pattern and Decoration artists “looked at Roman and Byzantine mosaics in Italy, Islamic tiles in Spain and North Africa. They went to Turkey for flower-covered embroideries, to Iran and India for carpets and miniatures, and to Manhattan’s Lower East Side for knockoffs of these. Then they took everything back to their studios and made a new art from it.”
Decisions about flatness and differentiation between the background and foreground are highly relevant in my new works as is the focal point of compositions. Some of my works in progress flatten the entire surface and some create the optical illusion of dimensionality with simple shadow effects. I’m looking at early computer art and 80’s graphics, Persian miniatures and engraved Medieval manuscripts, art deco patterns, and electronic circuit boards.