Text in Art (or, What an unwelcome horse taught me about art)

Horse painting © 1997 J. Thomson, all rights reserved

Ever since my early painting classes as an undergraduate in art school, I have been interested in incorporating text in my work. Using text in contemporary artwork is nothing new, and some artists use text exclusively. I’ve been inspired by the works of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and the Dada collages of Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, to name a few artists who used text in some of their artworks. I am intrigued by the possibility of adding additional layers of meaning to a piece through the use of text. Such uses have the potential to support the main idea of a piece, or contradict it; either usage is valid. The use of text in visual artwork can also serve to make the piece more accessible to the general public.  I think of it as a way of giving the viewer another handle to hold onto when grappling with the piece.

One of my early painting professors, Erin Palmer, offered a critique of a text painting I made as an undergraduate by asking whether the painting could be successful if the text wasn’t readable (ie, if it were in another language, or if it were illegible text). Continue reading

Thinking big. Adding zeroes.

"blame" from Lorem Ipsum... © 2012 J. Thomson All rights reservedOn the (f)utility of labels in my studio practice

My studio practice differs from that of most artists I know in that I don’t simply go into my studio every day (or even every week) and just paint. And when people I’ve just met ask me what I do, the exchange typically goes like this: “I’m an artist.” “Oh really? What kind of pictures do you paint?” “Well, I do paint sometimes, but not exclusively, and when I do, it’s not usually pictures of anything, because I approach a painting as a three-dimensional object, not an illusion of space…” By this point, the person’s eyes are usually glazing over and darting around the room looking for an excuse to get away. Sometimes to save us both the embarrassment, I’ll simply say that I make abstract paintings (which isn’t really true). The typical response is “oh, that’s nice.” Or maybe, “My aunt was an abstract painter. She killed herself though.” Continue reading