Monday, October 01, 2007

Art Space Talk: Ruth Pastine

Born and educated in New York City, Ruth is a classically trained artist who believes that art is life changing and that life changes can dramatically influence her art. Ruth considers herself an "essentialist"; her focus is light and color. Her desire is to confront the viewer viscerally and optically-- to confound the viewer with light and color. It is her hope that we start to re-think the way that we see upon viewing her paintings-- that we re-train our eyes in order to absorb her work in the moment.

Equivalence Blue Orange #3, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in., 2005

Brian Sherwin: Ruth, you earned an MFA from Hunter College of the City University of New York. Who were your mentors at that time?

Ruth Pastine: My painting process and the principles that structure my painting methodology have always been the greatest teacher. I was fortunate to work with Sandford Wurmfeld, Robert Swain, and Vincent Longo at Hunter, as they were all invested in perceptual painting. Sandy Wurmfeld introduced me to color and perceptual theory, which fueled a deeper insight into my painting process, and a greater understanding of my work, which continues to inform my studio practice.

Blue Orange Series- Lady Lake, Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 x 1 in., 2006

BS: Ruth, Can you recall any early experiences from your childhood that impacted the work you create today? Did your family support your artistic growth?

RP: Having been born and raised in New York City, the major art institutions such as MOMA, the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the Met were essentially my back yard. My mother was educated in art and art history, and we went to museums and galleries as a part of our daily life. My H.S. of Music & Art painting teacher, Yvette Berlowe, was very influential in inspiring me to be a painter. She taught me how to see, and challenge preconceived notions about what we think we see, because of what we think we know. This was the onramp to investigating essential content, which I realized years later.

Tribute (SW) Saturated Warm, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in., 2004
BS: Ruth, you have been reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, New American Paintings, Artforum, and several other publications. Did you expect your work to be so successful?

RP: I’m always pleased to have the work reviewed and acknowledged in the press, and participate in the discourse. As a painter, one spends an inordinate amount of time alone in the studio, and it is always rewarding to hear an echo in response to the work. I always expected success from the work, as I am diligent and true to my vision. I expect the work to receive more recognition as it’s acknowledged as a significant participant of the greater dialog of experiential painting.

BS: Ruth, your Black Light Paintings investigate the presence of light and color through exploring the darkest values of the color system. How did your work evolve to this point? When were you first interested in this study? Can you discuss how it has advanced from the early stages- to where you are today?

RP: The work is rooted in the perceptual experience of color, light, and temperature. Working serially has been instrumental in evolving the work. I began working serially my last two years at Cooper Union, and this has structured and evolved the work since. The Black Light Paintings evolved as a direct response and juxtaposition to my prior series of White Paintings, which diffuse the materiality of the painted surface into immaterial perceptual experiences. In contrast to the White Paintings, I was interested in the Black Light Paintings investigating the spatial tension between the solidity of the iconic structure and the density of an experiential space. The ‘black’ is a perceptual field fueled with color, light, and temperature, that resonates from a ‘nameless’ place, yet to be defined.

Paradise Eyes, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches, 2000

BS: Ruth, you seem to work in series-- White Paintings, Black Light Paintings-- where will your work take you next? Can you give our readers some insight into your next body of work? Also, is there a ladder of sorts in regards from working from one series to the next? Are your series always connected in some manner?

RP: I never know from one series to the next what will evolve as the successive series, until I’m in the thick of it. As I work toward completing a group of paintings, there is always some recognition of a point of departure, which defines the next series of paintings. This is discovered, I never know in advance. One series always influences and informs the next series of paintings. Usually a pivotal painting is the threshold and door to a new group of paintings. This painting is key and mercurial in that sense, as it’s able to define the closure of one body of work, and offer a potential gateway to a future series.

Every painting is connected in the series, and there is a greater continuum that links series to series, and the work as a whole. Working serially advances the work within such close parameters, and offers me great insight into that which is unknown.

As I’m nearing completion of the Black Light Series, I can share that my next body of work is in between black and white, and might be perceived as Gray.

Yellow Magenta #8- Triangle Skies, oil on canvas, 28 x 28 in., 2000

BS: Ruth, tell us about your painting process. How do you start a piece and when do you feel that it is finished?

RP: Although the paintings appear as a smooth seamless skin, and the hand is virtually undetected, the paintings are rigorously painted with a brush, composed of numerous layers and hundreds of daubs of paint. I approach each painting with a sense of direction, but with no end in mind. They are somewhat brazen and scrawl like, the first few layers, but gradually I work towards a certain perceptual resolve, that each painting reconciles on its own terms.

I love what Andy Warhol said when he appeared as a special guest on the TV Series "The Love Boat," and was asked by the crew director how he knew when a painting was finished, his reply being "When the check clears in the bank!"

Equivalence Blue Orange #2 (Yellow-Orange), oil on canvas, 30 x 30 in., 2005

BS: Ruth, can you tell us about your studio practice? What is it like to be in the studio of Ruth Pastine? Do you follow a routine? Do you prefer to work alone or with company? I find that the studio practice of an artist is often just as interesting as the work that is created since the two are connected in so many ways.

RP: They are inextricably connected. I need to paint everyday. I get anxious and agitated when I’m not painting. Painting connects me to what I am. You’ve heard of the fish out of water. I approach working in the studio and paint everyday like it’s my job, but it is so much more. It’s my greatest challenge and pleasure. My studio practice is methodical. I’m systematic and focused, and have to be alone. My process is very demanding and I have to work uninterrupted for 5-7 hours a day. There is always something to learn from the actual process of painting, which is what advances the work. On the one hand my practice is like a laboratory, on the other hand, it’s very active as I’m working on up to ten paintings at a time. I start working each day by blasting the music to bust the clutter of any thoughts racing through my mind, that distract me from my focus on painting.

BS: Ruth, can you discuss some of your influences? Have any artists from the past inspired you?

RP: Heroes are very personal, and although there are several artists, thinkers, and musicians that have been a beacon in my life, I don’t look at art for inspiration. I look at art because it connects me to greater humanity and to the greater humanity within myself. Painting and working in the studio has been the greatest source of inspiration.

Equivalence Blue Orange #3 (Red-Orange), oil on canvas, 30 x 30in, 2005

BS: Ruth, where can our viewers observe your work at this time? Are you in any public collections?

RP: I have a few solo shows coming up at Peter Blake Gallery in Laguna, CA: and at Gallery Sonja Roesch in Houston, TX, in May 2008; and at Brian Gross Fine Art in San Francisco, CA, in June 2008. Unfortunately my work is not in more public collections, which I hope to have rectified. It’s an on going challenge to have the work endorsed and installed in the public psyche.
BS: Do you have any advice for artists who are just starting out?

RP: Be honest with yourself in the studio and stay true to your vision, and keep a private studio.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the artworld?

RP: Painting is my life, and the art world is the world I live in. I grew up and lived in New York City until just prior to September 11th, when I moved to Southern California. I got to the point where I wanted to work from a much more private place outside of the hum of the market place, and enter the art world when I wanted, not because I was living in the midst of it. This has been important to the work, as the paintings are hard won, and my process is rigorous. I don’t like being sidetracked from my focus.
You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page,
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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