Blog: “Coloring” in the Lines Part Two

Christine Alfery

Posted on February 22 2020

Blog: “Coloring” in the Lines Part Two

I have a hard time following the rules. I’ve never been able to color in the lines, I’m not a fan of coloring books, and I’ve never made chocolate chip cookies the same way twice. Don’t get me wrong – rules do have a function. They establish a foundation from which an artist can expand, experiment, and explore in pursuit of creativity, discovery and ultimately the creation of art. For me, creativity and discovery are where art lies – it falls outside of established rules, foundations, boundaries, and lines.

During a recent museum visit I noticed how many 60’s modernist painters began by outlining their compositions with black paint or pencil. Those artists who made a general outline and then filled them with color it reminded me of “coloring” in a coloring book. Other artists completely obliterated the lines and went outside their original plan. I studied both.

 I stopped to consider a work by Michelle Graber. The work was round and was filled with differentiated grey and white dots ordered in concentric circles. I looked even closer and thought – wow, as an artist I don’t think I could ever imagine putting all those dots on that circle.

I wondered, what the artist was trying to say? What was she looking for? Nirvana? The Sublime? Was she making a political statement? Was the art for herself? Was it for the viewer? Was the differentiation combined with the matching a theoretical or political statement? But in the end, for me as a conceptual abstract artist and viewer, she was just “coloring” in the lines. Many artists are creatures of their foundations, in this case the school of design. For me as an abstract artist, adhering to the rules misses the point of art all together. As mentioned in Part One of this Blog, “coloring” in the lines is something I have never been able to do.

 I thought back to Sol Lewitt’s “Sentences on Conceptual Art” Number Eight. “Coloring” in the lines or picking art to match your room “imply[ies] a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations” 

 When considering Rene Magritte’s picture of a pipe, French theorist Michelle Foucault postulated - when looking at a picture of a pipe one is not looking a pipe but a picture of a pipe. So when looking at a painting is one looking at art, or looking at something that wants to be art? Art needs to stand alone – it isn’t about “how to” or following rules. Art is about figuring it out for yourself and allowing yourself to be in the work. 

 Art isn't about following the rules, it is about figuring it out for yourself and allowing yourself to be in the work.

As an artist I always have, and always will strive to break free of the lines and make my own way.


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