Thursday, October 27, 2016

LIFE FORMS: like a bird

In my last post, I detailed the thinking, methods and materials that I used when making the work that comprised my last online exhibition, in spring of 2016, and I mounted one suite of those drawings in that post (last month). Please visit that post to read about that process.

For today, I will just post the six drawings that made up my suite called "like a bird."

As always, if you open the first image, you can click through in a lightbox form that enlarges the images a little, so you can see them better.

©Ravenna Taylor, "like a bird, 01," 2016, graphite, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like a bird, 02," 2016, graphite, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like a bird, 03," 2016, graphite, sumi ink, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like a bird, 04," 2016, graphite, sumi ink, gouache, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like a bird, 05," 2016, graphite, sumi ink, gouache, acrylic paint, fabric collage, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like a bird, 06," 2016, graphite, sumi ink, gouache, acrylic paint, fabric collage, india ink, 15 x 11 inches

Friday, September 30, 2016

More About "LIFE FORMS"

Last year around this time, I decided to approach my work with different tools, objectives, and materials. I wanted to make my project a literal demonstration of my process.

The impetus began with a few pieces from my series (Many Rivers) exhibited online in spring of 2015; this was a group of oil paintings on paper which carried on my concerns with the nature of time, eliding with my fixation on passage, maps, water, and rivers.
Generally, my paintings are made with a technique of layering in varyingly transparent glazes or scumbling, with some drawing in paint. In that process, much time passes, as I often have to let the paint dry, and live with a layer before I am ready to obliterate it. Late in the series, I found myself allowing the images to be more thinly painted, with much less veiling and obscuring. This piece, "Natural History," is an example; the visible white is untouched paper -- Arches Huile, formulated for oil paints without priming.

©Ravenna Taylor, "Natural History," 2015, oil on paper, 30 x 22.5 inches

The following painting, "Ravel," is another which I'd expected to carry much further; but when I came to this image, I didn't want to cover it up, I wanted it to stand as a completed work.

©Ravenna Taylor, "Ravel," 2016, oil on paper, 30 x 22.5 inches

This painting, "Untold," is an example of the more heavily painted process in which I had been engaged; complete paintings existed as layers, and were obliterated, to contribute history to a simple image:

©Ravenna Taylor, "Untold," 2015, oil on paper, 22.5 x 30 inches

For my next online show, in spring of 2016, I conceived a group of works that would allow the layering of my process to be a subject in and of itself. I also chose to eliminate color, to use only white, black, and greys, to challenge myself to find a new point of entry into my images. And I decided to rely on materials I had in my studio; I wanted my approach to the work to have a self-sufficiency about it. I wanted to feel as natural in my activities as the birds that build their nests, as the insects that pollinate, as natural as water pooling and flowing. Hence the show came to be called "Life Forms," and the individual suites of works "like an insect," "like a bird," and "surface tensions." 

My process was this: I selected papers, enough to have 6-8 pieces of identical dimensions for each suite. Then I performed a step that would be an image, but also the first layer of an image, which I repeated on each of the sheets; each of my pages had the same drawing or wash executed on it, at the same time -- but each one was individual, this was not an edition, as in printmaking. (I was surprised, considering my usual avoidance of repeating myself, how much satisfaction this gave me, it was pleasurable.)
Next, I selected one to keep at that stage, and performed a different action on the next 7 sheets. 
And again, I selected one to keep, and performed a new act upon the next 6; and so on, until I had 8 pieces (or at least 6), each one a resolved work unto itself, but with increasing complexity in the suite, through layering one image upon another, always intending that each of the eight could have been a valid stopping point. This made my usual process, which is familiar to me over decades of development, finally visible to my audience.

Here follows the complete suite called "like an insect." The first drawings are very minimal, and although this is not the kind of imagery knowing viewers might associate with me, my work always begins like this, and I'm a little envious that some artists feel this is enough; I always feel I have to go further, and to give more. I end up completely covering the early layers, and they aren't even visible in the last piece. But in each of three suites, the first layer and every following layer, although obscured, is a part of the whole revealed at the end. I see this very much as a way of demonstrating the self-containment of a moment, the passage of time, the flux of seasons, and the forces of nature.

©Ravenna Taylor, "like an insect, 01" 2016, graphite on paper, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like an insect, 02," 2016, graphite, chalk, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like an insect, 03" 2016, graphite, chalk, collage, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like an insect, 04" 2016, graphite, chalk, gouache, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like an insect, 05" 2016, graphite, chalk, gouache, india ink, 15 x 11 inches

©Ravenna Taylor, "like an insect, 06" 2016, graphite, chalk, gouache, india ink, acrylic paint, collage, 15 x 11 inches

Here is a shot taken of my studio wall, with all three suites of this series, Life Forms, together -- top to bottom, "surface tensions," "like an insect," and "like a bird":

©Ravenna Taylor, studio view: the series "Life Forms" 2016

As always, if you have the website open in your browser, a click on one photo opens a "slide show" of all the photos in this post, with a better view.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


In the dark times
will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
about the dark times.
--Bertolt Brecht
Source/Notes: Motto to the 'Svendborg Poems' [Motto der 'Svendborger Gedichte'] (1938), trans. John Willett in Poems, 1913-1956, p. 320 - Poems, 1913-1956 (1976)

I return today to this project, to this threshold, to this passage, to this vein, to this lagoon,
to begin, again, to offer only this, to end the silence of a year.
Maybe I am Traveling (from The Book of Hours)
Maybe I am traveling, like some secret ore,
through the hard veins of a mountain, alone.
and no distance: nothing but a single core
that draws in all things and changes them to stone.
I don't have much wisdom about sorrow.
The vast darkness has made me smaller, it's true.
Are you the one solid enough? Come break through,
so that all of your touch might happen to me,
and all of my tears might happen to you.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated from German by Paul Weinfield, © 2014
See more translations from Paul Weinfield at his website, HERE


Saturday, April 16, 2016


Beauty is not enough, if there's one thing I'm sure of this morning, that would be it.
And what about reincarnationI'm starting to think that's a good idea, or at least starting to understand why one might want to believe it.
Maybe I can learn to beg for mercy, I don't think I've tried that yet.
There comes a point when the extraordinary aspiration snaps and what do you have then?

 © Ravenna Taylor 2016 LIFE FORMS: Surface Tensions, Like A Bird, Like An Insect. Three suites of drawings

In my next post, I will present one of these suites of drawings along with some explication of the works, which were featured during March in the online Galerie Cerulean, and are now archived here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


©2015 RavennaTaylor, "Continuance," photopolymer relief print, collage, 6 x 10 inches


I hear the hollow drill
of the Pileated Woodpecker;
unwinding almost visibly, a ribbon of rattle
snagged in a maze of trees.

Tied up in knots
I practice ordered tangles,
drawing them from diagrams
while blindly feeling for my fid.

A species of tiny birds depends
on inborn facilities:
weaving grassblades, tying knots.
Unlike us, they need not teach one another.

I guess I might have figured out
how to tie a knot, if
my father hadn't shown me
I would've thought I'd invented it.

image and text ©2015 Ravenna Taylor

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Heat Waves" was on view in "Going Big," LES, Manhattan

 ©Ravenna Taylor, "Heat Waves," 2014, oil on linen over wood, 9 x 9 inches

My painting, "Heat Waves," pictured above, was included in a large show of small works, thanks to artist/curators Suzan Shutan and Susan Carr.

The curators jumped on an opportunity to lease exhibition space for the month of August, and to make an exhibition by selecting artists from their wide circle of artist colleagues, a community mutually constructed by thousands of artists who meet online via Facebook. As a result of these connections, many interesting conversations and leaps of faith have been made, and friendships that are sometimes entirely online, sometimes face-to-face. It has changed the dynamic for contemporary art in a way all artists seem to agree is for the better, and Susan Carr and Suzan Shutan have made this show to celebrate that. With 111 artists contributing works of 12 inches or less, the costs were distributed; and although it might seem like a vast show, it was merely a corner broken from the edge of an important online community. 

The invitation to exhibit occurred just as I'd been thinking of doing such a thing myself, to celebrate my birthday this year, and to celebrate the connections which I value so highly. But I immediately realized I couldn't pull that off, and didn't really want to -- it is too fraught, to have to choose some people and leave out others.

The 111 assembled works represent a small proportion of our online artistic community. But I want to say explicitly: Those artists who are not featured in this show, who have not contributed works or volunteer efforts or financial shares in the lease of the space, are still contributors to this exhibition, which is about the community that has been constructed online, by mutual and collective effort, both personal and professional. I give thanks to all my artist friends on Facebook for that. I know it was in this spirit of celebration that Suzan and Susan took this on. "Going Big" was on view at Central Booking, 21 Ludlow Street, NYC through August 28.

Artist and journalist Joanne Mattera had work in the show, and built a comprehensive post on her blog, documenting the exhibition fully. (Joanne's blog is always worth a visit, and I recommend subscribing!) She has also included a list of links to other articles about this extraordinary show. Please visit Joanne's blog, here

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Many Rivers"

This post duplicates the presentation of my work in my online exhibition with Galerie Cerulean, which ran on the website gallery until April 20, 2015 (and remains in the Archive section).

In other news, I have 12 pieces on view currently at Drawing Rooms, 180 Grand Street, in Jersey City, NJ. The show is entitled "Little Hand," curated by Anne Trauben, and includes 8 artists, some of my favorite contemporaries working in abstraction. Please follow this link for information about the artists, hours, directions, and public transportation options: Drawing Rooms website. The show will close June 28, and it's my first opportunity to show this much work this near a metropolitan area in quite some time. I hope you'll visit!

I have also completely revamped my own website, where you can see a few installation shots of that show, and selected works from the last ten years or so: 
I plan to rotate works in and out of the website, so there will be fresh things to see periodically, but not too much all at once.

Gambit 2014   22.5" x 26" oil on paper

Retort 2015 22.5" x 30" oil on paper

Geologic 2015 22.5" x 27" oil on paper

Springhead 2015 30" x 22.5" oil on paper

The paintings were executed in oil paint, mostly on the paper called Arches Huiles, which is formulated for oil paints and solvents without the need for priming. I enjoy this immediacy, and the sensations of paper, the mix of drawing, fluid wash, stain and brushwork, the ability to change the shape and format in the process of working -- the imperatives of my materials.

The reference to rivers grounds my intentions in the dominant feature of the place where I live, as well as my ongoing preoccupation with time, its passage, and the evidences of what changes and what endures. Rivers also refer to the spiritual song by Jimmy Cliff, Many Rivers to Cross, which I was listening to somewhat obsessively in the studio last summer.

Many Rivers 2014 24" x 22.5" oil on paper

Untold 2015 22.5" x 30" oil on paper

Teeter-Totter 2015 22.5" 24" oil on paper

Broken Chord 2014 22.5" x 27" oil on paper

Sotto Voce 30" x 30" oil on wood panel

Natural History 2014 30" x 22.5" oil on paper

Ravel 2015 30" x 22.5" oil on paper

Glimmer 2014 22.5" x 26" oil on paper with fabric collage 
Thank you for your eyes and your support!