Driving America's Art Scene - Hunterdon County, NJ USA

Catherine Suttle

Catherine Suttle

Painting

My work draws from painters and painting traditions of the mid-20th century. Abstract Expressionism led me to a personal means of applying paint. The paintings of post-painterly abstractionists attract me because of their monumental quality and the degree to which they force viewers to challenge expectations of how a painting should look. I draw upon Milton Avery for his coherent compositions of simple shapes, awkward quality, and harmonious combinations of color. Avery’s quality of color is an ever-present voice in my mind. Richard Diebenkorn’s “New Mexico” paintings influence the way my paintings are layered, revealing an underlying structure in what would otherwise be untethered space. Some of my approach to painting grew out of making clay sculpture and my fascination with the innate qualities of clay. I used color (in the form of sprayed oxides) to accentuate shape and to reveal the clay’s inherent qualities. I valued the porous texture of clay in its raw and low-fired state. I relinquished control over my medium to a significant degree, which allowed a release of its energy to be captured in the work.

This approach allowed a strange beauty to be shown, even what is considered “unattractive.” I strive for a similar beauty in my paintings. I paint with oil because the color is luscious and rich. I often pour or rub the paint because that feels like a more natural way of working with it. This approach results in nuanced color and surprising accents that I enhance with line and more intense color. Design, in the sense of planning ahead, is kept to a minimum, in the hope for an unpremeditated work, yet a meditative experience for the viewer. The outcome of drawing upon these traditions, artists and influences––along with something added that is all my own––are paintings that focus on the potency of color; provide surprise in an environment of equilibrium; and engross the viewer who notices the subtle but intentional nuances that inhabit the field. I’ve mentioned that I am drawn to the awkward quality of Avery and perceive my work as using awkwardness across a spectrum of its possibilities. Some works provide an overall sensation of awkwardness while others offer an overall sensation of composure but are built with elements that, individually, are awkward.