Painting Pentimento

10.25.2016

What initiated writing this entry was having had picked up Art in America, September 2016 and reading a brief article titled "Pentimenti" by Sanya Kantarovsky. The author and artist writes that she too succumbs to pentimento; using chance and intention within a painting until an alignment of error and intent coexist.

Sanya Kantarovsky: Parts, 2016

Oil, watercolor, pastel on canvas

85" x 65"

 

Whatever your life purpose, it seems the natural course is to keep improving, reworking, and extending ones self beyond yesterdays limitations.

 

But then, we earthlings also like live in the comfort zone; making some days impossible to pass the ‘red zone’ we're accustomed to.

 

And so it is with my painting. There are times—well, most—that I don’t have the knowledge, skill or stamina to reach beyond my self imposed limitations. So naturally, I begin working within the parameters I know and the more I do, the more uncomfortable I become. As the work develops, it becomes additionally contrived, stale and lack luster. I know this because the work doesn’t move me... so how could I expect the work to provoke a response from a viewer?

Janice Sztabnik: Women in Skirts, 2013-2015

Oil on canvas

40" x 30"

 

After a few hours, I bring the painting, and myself to a sense of place - not one I am happy with but just familiar.

 

Then, after days, weeks or years, I'm ready to take on the challenge again. When we meet again, there is a feeling, our connection has changed. Well really, its my response towards an inanimate object that has provoked me and has no choice but to let me assert myself on it.  Thinking I have become someone new between yesterday and today and believing I can bring a fresh perspective to the work, I initiate the dance again.

 

And that’s where the real work begins: : Round Two.

 

Questioning, I ask myself “how do I bring the all of who I am (the past), yet be open to the present, while mulling over what I want to work toward?”

 

For now, the work PENTIMENTO describes the process to which I also engage in.

 

This word PENTIMENTO (plural pentimenti), is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word is Italian for repentance, from the verb pentirsi, meaning to repent.

Janice Sztabnik: Enter the Boll Weevil, 2015

Oil on canvas

40" x 30"

 

Taking on Round Two can be risky. Knowing I have altered the painting may provoke feelings of remorse, especially if the new dialogue obliterates the underpainting of lighter washes I need to keep within the work to maintain its freshness.  Altering one area always impacts another, and so the dialogue continues. One gesture provokes another.

 

As an artist, has Round Two allowed me to create a better work of art, or have I just created something the same, just different?

 

Many artists have intentionally, or not, included traces of earlier forms within their work. Examine Matisse's Nasturtiums with "the Dance" (II), 1912. Does an artist leave traces for a sense of history or purpose, or are these traces a natural progression of prior exploration?...  

Matisse: Nasturtiums with "The Dance" (II), 1912

Oil on canvas

 

Picasso remarked "Unfinished, a picture remains alive, dangerous. A finished work is a dead work, killed."... Paintings that speak to me are the ones that look like they just came about, include that sense of mystery, like they were created in a moment of energetic frenzy. Here's where the battle of feeling I need to be perfect taunts the part of me that wants to remove the shackles in my mind and allow myself the freedom to just be, accepting myself through my art. 

 

No matter the style, there is a truth we can all relate to in great art, allowing it to live on forever.

 

 

 

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