Johanna St. Clair "Root and Branch"
Original drawing by Johanna St. Clair
"Root and Branch" 2022
Sumi ink on paper
19 x 24"
Whether working with the black Sumi ink or the range of colorful oil pants, the color is not tethered to what the artist sees. It is the artist’s internal logic rather than a literal transcription that is being recorded. Both mediums are fluid and chaotic, but the ink is unalterable, while oil paint builds up, allowing for a deeper, more inward exploration into the idea of the world.
“First I fall in love with something in my environment – a tree, a flower. My current obsession is the waterfall and swimming hole on Mt. Tamalpais known as Inkwells. I lose my heart to a subject when it has a compelling chaotic structure: it’s a puzzle. Then I try to capture that weird chaos using any number of fluid mediums (ink, watercolor, oil paint) and direct observation. I don’t pre-sketch, I just start making marks and use deep concentration to keep track of where I am as I work (solving the puzzle). Through repeatedly painting or drawing the same subject, I develop a sense of its internal logic, leading to natural and intuitive deconstruction.
Paintings, drawings, and other forms of art are analogies. The analogy is ‘the paint on this canvas is like a leaf.’ Many of the marks are not very convincing as parts of plants and slip back into being just paint, telling a story of how the paint was applied and how it interacted with the paint already there. So the analogy also works the other way: ‘this leaf is like a blob of paint.’ Layered within the analogous structure of the paintings lie lots of other analogies, lots of marks that are like something.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about humor as I work. Painting is funny (ask any painter) because the process has chaos, and therefore surprises, embedded in it. A mark that starts with one intention often changes into something unintended. There is humor in the repurposing of an idea, in the rerouting of thought that takes place when a mark has multiple meanings. Not all my marks are funny, but they are all embedded with play. Through marks on paper and canvas we play at seeing, perceiving, thinking.”
-Johanna St. Clair