What if the formal foundations for abstraction and non-objective art had developed organically alongside classical naturalism, beginning with the early Renaissance at the start of the 15th century?
Imagined this way, the stigmas of empty innovation for modernism’s sake—so often attached to modern art of the 20th century—and empty mimetic copywork for tradition’s sake—an attack still often leveled against the western canon by modern scholars—might never have materialized, allowing instead for the gestation of a rich amalgam of these two strains of European art.
The history of abstraction in art is marked by contests among artists whose biographers see one or another as the first to abandon recognizable subject matter. The current record-holder is the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint [1862-1944], whose secret, decades-long production of large-scale non-objective oils may qualify her as the first of the first, on both formal and thematic grounds, though many curators and historians have yet to acknowledge her achievement. Klint's unexpected (and to some, unwelcome) arrival on the scene of abstraction's origins begs the question, Who might have done it before Klint? (As it happens, another extraordinary woman, the English artist Georgiana Houghton, explored abstraction as early as 1868 – but that's not my point.) The myriad hypothetical answers to this question fuel my work. I begin each painting by considering a different period, style or school of art from the past, or the output of a single artist at a given moment in her career. I then try to identify those features of the art which are most likely to survive the translation from representation to abstraction. This is a personal process of formal interpretation, not a disciplined analysis. I make no claim of accuracy, nor even of credibility for the images that result. In the end, every work of art must be judged on its own, of course – independent of the ideas that might have inspired it. But if the viewer bears my premise in mind while viewing the paintings, both the differences and the consistencies among them will probably make more sense.