Liza Dent

My work consists predominantly of experimental color choices that I juxtapose with heavy emphasis and attention drawn to my hand. Whether it is with pen, watercolor, oil paint, or pastel, the work maintains a sense of abstraction through meditation. Recently, the work has manifested itself in the form of repetitive concentric circles with slight structural changes along the way. It resembles the lines on topographical maps and in the rings on trees. In doing so, it embodies a sense of natural forms on both the macro and microscopic levels. Many of the pieces are characterized by a strong sense of color which tends toward monochromatic but which I aim to move away from in order to include more dramatic color choices and juxtapositions. My past work had dealt more with texture than with color, though always giving thought to the overall composition in regard to color placement and shapes. By working large, I am able to really get into a rhythm that enhances the viewers’ perception of the action of the painting and my hand in that action. When I do choose to work small I attempt to allow the paint to speak for itself. I allow it to move and work its way out however it needs to. The result are brightly colored sections pushing up against other bright sections which also seem to reference natural forms similarly to pools of water with mineral sediment build up. The works with pen all feel very doodley in that they are smaller, they move around the surface differently, and they feel very quick. These ones were my over all inspirations for the paintings I have been making recently.
Typically I begin by laying down a good amount of water on some strong watercolor paper so that the color I subsequently put down will have a nice amount of space in which to roam around. I then make a conscious effort to decide on colors beforehand that I know will interact well together, so that I maintain as little responsibility for the outcome as possible. I occasionally will take a more active role in the mixture of the paint but I find that generally the colors are able to interact much more interestingly when left to their own devices. For example, if I mix a yellow and a purple, it will turn into brown, whereas if I just let them sit next to each other, by the time they dry they will have remained almost entirely separate from one another. I also sometimes like to layer different materials on top of previous layers so that the eye ends up pushing some layers forward and some layers back. When I add more layers after the initial first layer, I try my hardest to keep my eyes unfocused so that I can only really see the blobs of color and the overall form that they are taking on. This way, I remain confident and happy with what I am doing and what I am making. When I work with oils and occasionally with acrylics, I build up the surface with thick layers of paint mixed with medium to create a dense visual atmosphere of color and texture. Typically with these paintings I find it very helpful to use a palate knife instead of a brush for most of the painting. It is difficult to build up such rich texture using only a brush.
I think what really draws me to the use of abstract forms and methods of painting is first and foremost insecurity I have with regard to my more representational work. I know that I can render images fairly realistically, but I am not sure that I ever have the confidence to back up my choices in visual language. I choose instead to take a step back from the process and allow the paint to act how it wants. In doing so, I release responsibility from the end product and instead act as a sort of director. I make the first moves which give structure to the painting, but I remain removed from what ends up happening. In my larger watercolor pieces, I have more of my hand and arm involved in the process. I find these to be meditative in a different way altogether. These I can create with larger sweeping arm movements to create those circular tree ring/ topographical patterns over the whole expansive paper. I find this meditation to be increasingly valuable as I go through different periods of stress. These paintings allow me to decompress and to remain sane especially in the current political climate. I would like to begin taking on a more active role in my community through these sort of paintings, whether it be through allowing people to contribute and thus gain some meditative moments for themselves, or figuring out a way to let my frustration and need for meditation shine through in these works. I am always looking to expand in my practice and to find different way to make working feel meditative as a form of self-care.

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