Past L.A. Exhibition

How Some Paintings Are Born


  • Christine Nguyen
  • Susanna Maing
  • Lauralee Pope

Nov 15, 2014 – Jan 10, 2015
Opening Reception
Saturday, November 15, 6-8pm
BAIK Art, L.A.
2600 S. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, Ca 90034

Press Release

Baik Art presents How Some Paintings Are Born, an exhibition by three southern California artists, Christine Nguyen, Susanna Maing and Lauralee Pope, who offer their insights through the medium of paint.

Each of the artists in this exhibition has embarked on a great experiment. It’s not like they are jumping off of cliffs without parachutes or in laboratories surrounded by viruses while creating cures for weird diseases, but they are actively seeking new ways of thinking by challenging themselves with their own self-constructed problems to solve. While each artist’s production method is not merely focused on studying and representing the social relationship between artist and viewer, it does, however, rely on circumstances generated by the art maker and that maker’s connection to process, history and the world of ideas. Every individual studio practice is a form of understanding how developments and materializations are performed and endorsed by the initiator. All of those initiators—the artists in this show—pick up on their own philosophical perspectives while noting how theoretical foundations and the suppositional systems built on them are always subject to a shifting topography—they are always in motion.

Christine Nguyen has progressed from her earlier interest in using drawings on Mylar as negative material through which to project light to make photographic prints—the transformation of drawings into photographs—to her more recent way of working. Now, she effectively replicates the look of those prints, but this time she uses spray paint (the kind found in aerosol cans) to make them. Each artwork is less planned than before, so the productive journey is negotiated without any intermediary drawings. The new work is haunted by the production methods of artists like Jules Olitski (1922-2007) whose groundbreaking spray-paint works from the 1960s were concerned with laying down atmospheric blankets of colored spray on canvas. Over time, his work advanced through the added use of clarified shape, value quality and color intensity and their relationships to the painting’s spatial development and illusion of three-dimensional form. In Nguyen’s case, this all occurs, except that numerous childhood trips on her father’s commercial fishing boat also impacts the work.

Susanna Maing might begin a painting by first tinting the canvas, laying down a brushstroke or making some sort of mark. She may well play that mark against another contour, texture or field of color that somehow causes a push and pull between the first thing made and the second thing made; then each foreground and background element is worked until she is satisfied with the resultant spatial quality. This approach is not unusual. What is unusual is that Maing defuses the act of remembrance. That is, she forgoes the pretense of recalling to mind painting events that were held in memory from the production of her previous work for the purpose of going to a newer place; in her painting, we must always be prepared to learn something totally unexpected. There is a premise of temporarily forgetting—mentally cleansing through the erasure of memory—what she had painted in the past. A recollection of painting mechanics is the only thing kept alive in the form of a warning sign that cautions if something starts to seem too obvious, too formulaic.

Lauralee Pope starts each painting as though she is on a pathway moving toward a new arena where her creative struggles can be recognized and resolved. Her process, as a rule, begins with no preconceived idea, with no plan or conclusion regarding what she thinks will happen or what will be made once she starts painting. This resonates with comments often made by comparative theologist Alan Wilson Watts (1915-1973) who would often suggest that the mind must let go of itself both in the sense of trusting its own memory and reflection, and in the sense of acting spontaneously, on its own, into the unknown. Anyway, I wondered why I felt so hungry during my last visit to Pope’s studio. Some of her works look nonliteral but play themselves out by encapsulating a foodie’s craving for something (Pizza, Popcorn, Oreos) while hiding most of the visual data. What remains subliminally tempts stomach and mind with edible-sounding titles, so the viewer sees painting and sculpture simultaneously while in the state of Pavlovian salivation.

The artwork in this exhibition, which many people will call abstraction, can potentially relay some of the same characteristics as a good story by stimulating the imagination with the parts presented, by conveying engaging transitions between the order of the work’s events, and by ending at the right time with a satisfying conclusion. Whether it is impasto paint dragged along the surface of a canvas, a streak with a semi-dry brush, a paint pour or a pull, these actions for Nguyen, Maing, Pope and other artists who paint, are of the greatest cosmic importance in both an artwork’s embryonic and advanced stage of development.

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Christine Nguyen

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Susanna Maing

Lauralee Pope