Donald Martiny interviewed by Matt Schaefer

MS:  So Donald, where was your last show?

DM:  I am showing currently in LA at the George Lawson Gallery.  Prior to that I showed at the Marlboro Gallery at Prince George Community College near Washington DC.

MS:  What are these made of?

DM:  They are a polymer mix and dispersed pigment.

MS:   How did you arrive at this point?  What was the "eureka" moment"?

DM:   I was struggling with my work.  I made a lot of de Kooning look-a-likes but got frustrated with the structure.  I would make grand gestures and then went back and tried to fix the edges and corners.  One day I just got rid of the ground (canvass). It took a while to figure out what I had done.  It freed the gesture to be what ever it wanted to be.   I think Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella were in the back of my mind.

MS:  Who else art historically were big influences?

DM:  I look at painting and sculpture a lot.  I used to travel quite a bit and whenever I did I always made time to visit museums and galleries.  I am a big fan of Velazquez.  I also looked a lot at the oil sketches by Rubens at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.  Obviously I also admire de Kooning, Lynda Benglis Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella, among others.

MS:  So are these representations of actual markings in paint?

DM:  No, absolutely not.  They are my own honest gestures.  I am not representing the gestures of other artists.

MS:  Let me rephrase.  Do you build these after smaller scale models?

DM:  I usually begin by making many small studies on paper.  Then I make small works based on the sketches.  These are finished works but they also work as maquettes or prototypes for larger works. When I work large I have a basic idea of color, feeling and shape but they never end up finally exactly as I had planned.   

MS:  Pretend you are talking to someone who has no idea about how to understand abstraction. In a few sentences, how would you guide them into understanding your work?

DM:  I simply want to create my own images rather than use existing images that may have baggage.  I want the images to speak for themselves rather than paint an actor.  I know I can paint a figure or landscape that feels a certain way.  But why not be more direct.  Rather than use the landscape, let  the painting itself evoke the feeling or experience. 

The focus of my inquiry as a painter is the gesture

Many of the abstract expressionists of the 1950s, the second generation abstractionists in particular, adopted an attitude of an all over attack, attempting to fill the canvas with energy. They made big expansive gestures on the canvas but then ran into problems, particularly in the corners.  In painting and energy terms, they were compromised by the "fixing-up" of all the loose gestures-as their gestural arcs were limited by the boundaries of the rectangular suport or ground upon which they played out.

Later, artists like Frank Stella, Sam Gilliam, Elizabeth Murray and Ellsworth Kelly addressed this issue each in their own way; generally by shaping the canvas to fit their painting. Though I am inspired and intrigued by these ideas, my interest lies in freeing the gesture from the traditional rectangular shaped support and exploring its potential.  Rather than having a painting full of gestures, the painting itself becomes the gesture.

My process is to start out small, developing prototypes and studies.  I then translate the most successful pieces into full sized works.  It is my belief that the larger scale invites the viewer inside the work. I create the works on the floor, moving around them.  I often use brooms for brushes.  The paint is a mixture of polyepoxide, polyamine and raw pigment.  Sometimes I add micro bubbles to make them lighter.  As a veteran oil painter, I enjoy the idea that in this exploration I am using materials employing nanotechnology and brooms.