Susanna Heller

1. I met Harry when I was moderating a panel discussion with the three painters exhibiting at the Maas Gallery, Purchase College, in a show called Time/Place. The artists are Julian Kreimer, Beth Livensperger and George Rush. The date was November 7, 2013.




Walking the city. The everyday conditions of time and place take form when walking the city. My aim is to record these conditions and moments of action, and to transform them into drawings and paintings. Visual knowledge is full of the contradictions arising from urban agglomerations. The resolution starts with committing to a mark: pencil to paper or brush to canvas. I take a stand.

A painting, like a walk, connects the physical experience (feet on the ground/paint on the canvas) to movement, energy, and space. Past, present and future are all ignited with each moment of seeing or each step taken. Ernst Bloch says we all live in different ‘nows’; in a painting and in walking in the city, you enter and travel in a multitude of ways. Visual language is not real lived experience, but through the viewer’s gaze, a painting can participate in real lived experience by bringing that which is invisible in everyday life to the surface. I paint tactically, not strategically. The practice itself is foremost. That is, I work without a formal plan or map, and stay reactive to the process. It is a process that relies on intuition, but remains grounded by a gaze that is always connected to the movement of the world. The work is non-formulaic and without physical hierarchies or imperatives. This explains the ever shifting of surface, mark, texture, density, etc, within each painting and from painting to painting. The work is not a reduction of the experience of a walk; it is an exposition of the visual stories of that walk. These visual stories are everywhere but remain mostly unnoticed and unnamed.

The work, for me, is a study in contrasts and contradictions between the voyeur and the ordinary practitioner As an artist and as an observer, I read and depict  the thicks and thins of urban routes. These paths of walking or looking provide a subtext to the physical structures which ordinarily carry the identifying markers. These intertwined paths give new shape to familiar spaces. They bring in a time element which is not linear but cyclical. Therefore the readable space in a painting/drawing often becomes bent, stretched and multiplied in one work. Time, in a walk, painting or drawing is not quantifiable, nor is it a straight strategic path. “Wasting” time to “get there” is the point; its about what happens along the way.

As is clear from these musings, my work derives directly from drawings made on site as I watch and/or walk the city. My process always involves an extensive number of drawings which cover the walls of my studio. I make the paintings after months of synthesizing and developing and reworking the drawings into more complex, fractured and multiple spatial narratives. The surface marks, texture and quality are extremely important and are always newly invented for each work. This is necessary in  order to keep a non-hierarchical expectation to what I am trying to depict. Whether moving through the city, or perched on top of a bridge or at a high window, my interest is always to bring multiple physical and visual experiences into one space. The seeming contradiction between the one static finite object that is a canvas with pigment, and the infinite and highly volatile space being suggested, is what excites me as a painter.


- November 11, 2013