"Unseen Lines" text detail (c) Dianne Bowen
Drawing is like taking a line out for a dance, sometimes it's a heavy metal slam dance, sometimes it's as structured as a waltz, and sometimes it's a virgina reel and I'm just switching hands and partners, pencil, paint, paper, film...

An artist's journey making sense of the world through art, language and conversation.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two generations across the wall, pigment, pencil...

In 2011 I began working on a series of large scale drawings as part of my "Deep Sound" series. Abstraction is the foundation of my artistic history. My uncle Michael Mulhern was an abstract painter who worked predominately on large scale paintings. Over the course of his career he received many prestigious grants including the Pollack/Krasner grant in 2000 and 1989. After September 11, the Times interviewed him as his studio was directly across from the towers. Deeply affected by the tragedy, he had begun his "Ashes" series. I refer and pay homage to him in one of my large scale works "Deep Sound" in the associated poem;

"Deep Sound"
Pacing downtown loft, bare window views burial ground reconstruction listening for signs, on her own notes she pins to the wall, catalogs blood lines, New York Abstraction sewn to her feet, two generations across the wall, canvas, paper, pigment, paint, we have killed ourselves with concoctions, surrendered gladly to our possession, time tick-tocking another dimension

I find myself continually going back to the many discussions with him over the course of my life in regards to art, art practice and the long journey an artist makes building their life's body of work et al. The discoveries, success, failure, eureka moments and complete frustration when I want to just tear a work to shreds. All of it important to work through, all of it brings something to the table. Being an artist is not for the faint of heart. At the end of a day, you just do the work because that's what you do. It will demand everything, it's a selfish lover never satisfied and still you surrender everything gladly.

In 2007 my cousin Colin (his middle son) had recently visited and seen a work from the series "Lines Of Communication (white)", I was exhibiting in a group show at the New Theater in the East Village. Colin told his father he really needed to come by and see the new work. Shortly after and at the suggestion of my cousin, Michael came to do a studio visit with me. It was early in the series, I was working on various papers with wires and other elements added to the drawings. I was at a pivotal point.  Pulling out the large drawings which were in sections, he looked through them quietly listening to my thoughts on the direction and simply said, "These are good, these are really good Dianne." I almost fell on the floor ! Acceptance as a serious artist from him was not an easy task nor one he gave lightly. We talked about the importance of scale, mixing concoctions of paint and pigment. "They need to be much larger now." I said. He agreed smiling, teasing me, "You do realize once you go big it's hard to go back." Being Irish, our conversations while very serious when it came to art, always had a bit of humor and play.

I think back to these earlier visits and discussions often. His critique's were never easy but always direct and constructive. Brutally honest which is necessary. In another visit around 2003-4 while working on a series of large scale abstract paintings, he said, "good work, but when are you going to stop putting shit all over your paintings and just paint?" Replying rather quickly smiling, "I don't know, when I decide they don't need all that shit on them." I think back on these and many conversations over the years discussing each others work, the art world and a slew of other topics. They are one of the things that taught me to have a critical eye by a very young age. To be brutally honest with myself about my work and develop a thick skin was a crucial lesson to learn as young artist. 

"two generations across the wall, pigment, pencil".

Michael Mulhern:

Michael Mulhern, OV 136, oil on canvas, 87" x 108"

Michael Mulhern, Ampersand-38, oil on canvas, 40" x 38"

Dianne Bowen:

Dianne Bowen, Wide Open, oil, pigments, pigment sticks, china markers, light fast pencil on canvas, 114" x 186"

Dianne Bowen, Deep Sound, oil, pigments, china marker, light fast pencil on canvas, 96" x 84"

Dianne Bowen, Live Wire, pigments, light fast pencil, china marker on mylar, 22" x 34"

 Dianne Bowen, Falling Loose Exhaling Empty, gouache, light fast pencil on mylar, triptych, 79" x 108"

Dianne Bowen, Lines Of Communication (white) diptych, pigments, recycled tire treads, guitar wires on paper, 21" x 64"

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