Artist's Statement

Artist's Statement

Drawing is an act through which I come to know my world and myself. I crave the solitude of seeing. This need imprints itself on the work. A figure or a place becomes tangible to me as my eye and hand explore intervals of space and particular qualities of light. The act of observation is transformed from mimicry into the poetry of seeing.

The power of form, light and space to evoke an intimate presence is the heart of my work. The figure’s ability to reflect one’s sense of being with one’s self emerges and re-emerges. The physicality of my images is not reduced to an object of desire or a deconstructed cultural construct. Instead, in moments of solitude, it is the accumulated effects of time on the body that are reflected in a vulnerable and intimate beauty that elicits an empathy with the observed human form.

As I have drawn the sea, its force, patterns and enveloping and shifting light are heightened and transferred into the drawn image. The immutable dominance of the sea against the resisting and shifting continuity of the coast, shape the land and my images. It is not an examination “about” but “a participation in” through touch. It is the touch of the eye to light, the touch of hand to material and paper. The drawing becomes the accumulation of traces that record the dialogue between the eye, mind and hand. The residue of observed patterns and the conceptualization of memory merge into psychological and experiential spaces.

I return to draw the same environments. The immutable dominance of the ocean against the barrier islands creates powerful forces that reshape the land and my drawings. The dominance of the ocean’s force against industrial made jetties reveals the futility of our will to tame nature. Yet to the human eye it is these same jetties that enable one to perceive the ocean’s vast openness. This contradiction and resulting tension are essential to me rather than an imitation of nature. The power of the sea, its patterns and enveloping light, challenge me and rekindle my sense of touch and place as I draw.

For me, drawing is not the descriptive rendering of the picturesque that ties up sentimentalized details into a voyeuristic experience, topped off with highly local and/or impressionistic color. I do not seek the picturesque in either the human body or a landscape. But any artist must reckon with nature’s innate beauty. And that beauty is never tame.

Time changes forms. Through drawing, I experience the extended passage of time and its effects on the body and the environment. The weather constantly changes. The light, the coast’s shifting forms and the tides are never still. The act of drawing conceptualizes the essence of my experience and embeds it into the paper and materials, saturating the image.

My work can be placed in the contemporary dialogue by Wayne Thiebaud following statement, “Well I think we’re talking about a very interesting duality about light and the use of light in painting. One category has to do with the formal properties of light and imitating it, that is to say, of knowing what a highlight is, a cast shadow, a reflected light and so on, and then replicating that or using that strategically as a way of determining volume. So in a sense you are showing how light works by specific annotation. The other kind of light however, is quite a different tradition, that’s where, as you indicated with your reference to Morandi, the light is created by way of creating energy, the juxtaposition of colors and the interaction of those colors to create light quite different from the modulation of volumetric rendering. If we look at Bonnard, or Matisse, or Vuillard, that tradition, the wonder of it is the way the light comes off the paper by way of color. It’s not what we refer to as natural light, but it’s a kind of eternal light, or symbolic light, or light that is sustained by the energy of the interaction of color.”

Rather than subject matter or style, my link to other artists is the absence of myself as the decentralized subject that is both an agent in the work and absent from it. I identify with the stillness of Morandi’s paintings. Thiebaud thinks that Morandi’s work has to do with certain propositions of serious painters. “One of them,” Thiebaud states, “is the wonder of intimacy and the love of long looking. Of staring but at the same time moving the eye, finding out what’s really there, and there are so many things that are subtle and may look like something at one moment but not the next.”

As an artist who returns to draw the figure and to the same sites, my challenge is not technique, but my ability to capture tension and the pressure between that which is the fleeting and that, which endures. Achille Bonito Oliva states, “The poetics of Morandi is founded in the metaphysical capacity of art, and specially painting: to explore the nature of things, to represent both their fleetingness and durability.”

In The Brooklyn Rail, Greg Lindquist describes Morandi’s legacy for contemporary artists as one for those who seek an alternative to a fixation “only on the perceived cultural currency and sufficient (often mechanical) reproducibility of an image. Instead Morandi’s alternative gives equal weight to both the image and materially-engaged object.”

Sean Scully states, “I always found the idea of Cezanne, walking up the mountain every day to paint it, a very moving metaphor for a faith. Over time the paintings can appear similar, however they are changing slowly, as the sensibility of the painter and the medium of painting lose their separate identities.”

My work reveals a consistent and particular sensibility rather than a signature style or technique. Observation, tradition and innovation are my partners in generating and regenerating images that are in my memory and my hand. And it is through this partnership that an emotional interaction with the fabric of living is conveyed. I am an observer, fascinated by the world around me, curious about life and intrigued by things different from myself. And it is this intimacy and empathy that is at the core of my work.

Anne Bessac