The Importance of Looking Through Windows an interview with Julia Loughlin
September 26 2018
"After much effort, as names, definitions, sights, and other data of sense, are brought into contact and friction one with another, in the course of scrutiny and kindly testing by men who proceed by question and answer without ill will, with a sudden flash there shines forth understanding about every problem and an intelligence whose efforts reach the furthest limits of human powers." - Plato
You really need to look through these paintings, beyond the first layer, similar to how you would look through a pane of glass in a window to see the action progressively unfold. But the point of staring out of a window is, paradoxically, not to find out what is going on outside, rather, an exercise in discovering ourselves, a way to meditate on our inner visions. The significance of giving yourself time to work on the irrational, the inconclusive thoughts that stem when working on art or life. The onlooker is asked to be active, as they are brought into the action in attempts to reach beyond conscious thoughts and mindsets.
In Loughlin's paintings, the surface's texture is diverse and the forms below appear gradually. The gestural qualities, the use of color create boundaries in the work that appear gradually like magic at times. This depth that follows can be discombobulating at first but the more you look the more involved you become!
"Julia Loughlin recently packed up her Brooklyn studio and moved to the West Coast. Julia grew up in rural, western New Jersey and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she studied art. Her paintings are oil-based and abstract. Her subject matter is taken from her real feelings and memories, and the paintings engage with illusionism, time, and perspectival space. Her paintings are connected to her everyday life, and are inspired by nature, walking, and windows." (excerpted from artist bio)
Read the full interview below...
TUSSLE: How does your work begin and how does it evolve until its completion?
JULIA LOUGHLIN: The pictures begin minimally and impulsively. It's difficult for me to work on something that's totally smooth and blank, so the first moves I make on the surface are really just building up a presence or foundation that I can play on later. I also prepare my own surfaces, and I prefer that they aren't 100% neutral, to begin with.
I like to fill in the whole surface and create a color space, and I'm usually thinking about the sky, or a shadow I saw earlier. I keep it really open and subtle at this point. From there, my process is slow! I like to take a lot of time to look between making moves. I add more drawing. It takes me a long time to discover the underlying logic and structure that's supporting the picture. I'd actually say that by the time I do discover this, the painting is basically finished.
The process works well for me, and I like being with a painting for a long time. I like that they show themselves slowly to the viewer as well, and I think this is only possible to achieve when I'm actually putting the time in, even if a lot of that time is spent looking. It's very important to me. That definitely creates limitations, though. It can be frustrating to break through the middle stage when the picture is no longer open, but it’s not resolved yet either; it also makes it really difficult to abandon a painting. I feel I need to finish a picture, even if it's really not working.
T: How important is drawing to your painting process?
JL: It's so important! Drawing is inseparable from anything I make. For my whole life, I've been obsessed with it, and it's taught me how to see and to develop my visual language. I wouldn't be able to make paintings if I hadn't found a way to think of them as drawings. I use traditional drawing materials (like charcoal and graphite) in my paintings, but I also think about touch and surface in my paintings similarly to how I'd think about them in a drawing. I can't separate it out from my practice as a whole. I do also make pencil and charcoal drawings on paper that are distinct from my paintings. Those are helpful in breaking through the middle part of making a painting that I mentioned before. Drawing can help me get to structural ideas if I'm having trouble clarifying them in a picture. It's useful to make drawings of my paintings, or parts of my paintings, at different stages to help me make decisions about how to proceed.
T: What are some limitations with your medium that challenge you?
JL: Painting doesn't come naturally to me at all, whereas drawing generally has. The whole thing is really a struggle all the time, but that's what I love about it. When I get something to work, it seems so unlikely and feels like magic. There are a lot of steps working with oil paint in particular, so it takes some patience. I think I'm still making it up as I go a lot of the time, though! I tend to use other media in addition to oil paint in most of my paintings because I like the juxtaposition. I can't always create the depth or type of mark I want with paint by itself.
T: Have you collaborated with other artists in the past? If so in what capacity?
JL: Not in the recent past, at least not on anything like an art project, but I'm certainly open to it. I love the idea of contributing to a big project with a big, tangible result. Years ago I did have the opportunity to help out a little bit on a mural painting inside of a swimming pool. That was cool because I couldn't tell what it was going to look like at the end, I was just contributing some of my time to the painting. I helped out for a day or so, and when it was finished like a week later and I saw pictures of the pool filled with water, it was so beautiful and complete. It was like a collage you could swim in! That was a collaborative project by two artists Matt Phillips (a former painting teacher of mine) and Andy Ness. It was great to have been a part of something like that even just as an extra hand.
T: Do you (or how do you) represent yourself in your works?
JL: Some of the paintings feel extremely familiar to me--they look like me in a certain way. But I don't think I represent myself in the work. I think of it like being a builder, so I'm not thinking about representation, but I'm trying to make something that works and that other people can inhabit too.
T:. As you had mentioned, your pieces recall personal feelings and memories, can you share an example of how a memory has unfolded into a work or share other inspirations?
JL: I've always been really easily overwhelmed by visual experiences. I get absorbed by things that I think are beautiful, or kind of surreal, or hard to understand visually. I remember being little and laying down in the back of the car on long drives with my family, and looking through the sunroof watching the rhythm of the telephone wires, the sky and clouds and the trees gliding in and out of the frame, the feeling of going fast and the light flickering as we drove through the trees. There are a lot of trees where I grew up. And driving at night, it was moonlight and silhouettes--a completely different but equally beautiful feeling.
I guess that sounds a little boring, but it was a really heightened aesthetic experience and it was abstract in a way. There are lots of things like that to observe every day and I'm usually really attuned to them. So that's the kind of feeling I'm thinking about when I'm making a painting--being in awe of the little beautiful and surreal moments that show themselves if you’re looking and feeling a certain way. And then while I’m working on a painting, it will allow me to have those moments when I’m looking at it, so I tease them out and that’s kind of how I proceed in making the picture.
T: Sometimes the artists work changes as their environment does, has your recent move to the West Coast influenced your practice?
JL: Yes! First of all, I have a big challenge in figuring out how I'm going to make paintings here because I have a really small apartment with my boyfriend. I haven't actually made anything since I left New York, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to for a little while. I've also found that there's so much that's new every day since I just moved here, and I'm setting up a new home, setting up a new life--I'm having to expend a lot of creative energy in other ways. I really like to walk around the city by myself, and I feel that I'm filling a reservoir of things to put into my paintings later. San Francisco is small but even the weather and the landscape change really drastically between the different neighborhoods. It's often extremely beautiful and whimsical, but it's also super gritty and the process of gentrification is highly visible. The juxtapositions are really striking. I'm not sure yet how this will affect my work but I'm going to get a chair for my kitchen table and then I'll start making drawings.
T: Who is your favorite abstract painter and why?
JL: Oh man! I don't have a favorite. The best way I can think of to answer that is with the last art experience that resonated really deeply, which was a room of Agnes Martin paintings installed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With the group of them and nothing else in the room except for a big round bench, it's a really comfortable place to sit and look. The paintings show up not all at once, but they're really open, and I don't feel like I'm missing or not seeing something while I'm looking. As much is there that needs to be there. They're so poignant, also. They make me feel uncomplicated, life-affirming emotions like blue sorrow, sweetness, and high-key, simple joy. It's just so cool that paintings can do that! It reminds me why I believe in them so much.