My paintings are usually related in some way to my physical environments and experience of them. Source material I draw from when I’m painting often includes photographs I’ve taken of places I’ve been. Also, the paintings are experiments in creating new environments. An individual painting can become a new place in itself, with sensations of things that might happen in a place, such as weather, touch, landscape, temperature, sex or noise. Abstract marks interact with more recognizable shapes, and a kind of narrative ensues.
When talking or writing about my work, I stray from defining the narratives in a literal way. Instead, I try to describe them as I see them, both as the person that made them and decided they make sense, and also as a witness to the end result.
Semi-abstract “characters” show up in the paintings and suggest meanings with their repetition and associations with each other. For example, a chunk of green and white stripes has its origins in the green and white striped pajama bottoms from Suzanne Valadon’s The Blue Room, 1923. To me, this “character” feels like a queer, feminist reclaiming of the history of painting. A pink fir tree is an odd, out-of-place Pacific Northwestern interloper and solo eloper in the big city.
Making these semi-abstract landscape-based paintings with a personal narrative running underneath is a three-pronged effort. I am looking at my agency in the landscape. I am trying to spend more time in the place by painting it. I’m using paint to make physical contact again. In this intimate way, the paintings explore landscape as a lover and loved one, enmeshed with the paint, and without the safe distance usually afforded by the Sublime in traditional Western landscape painting.
I think of both painting and looking as pleasureful experiences.
Susanna Bluhm 2018