Monday, August 5, 2013

Donald Baechler

A few weeks ago I watched a lecture by Donald Baechler to students of his alma mater, Maryland Institute College of Art. It took the form of slides in chronological order. The early paintings were large, an image of, say, a chair floated on an abstract ground. He used enamel house paint on canvas and says they are pristine after thirty years, adding that sometimes we get overcautious about longevity.

Some images

His influences were (are) Warhol, Cy Twombly and Giotto, and I think he mentions Rodin too. 

The black line around the central image is one of his trademarks, he just likes it. Some of the background elements such as the patterns of dots are silk-screened and then collaged on. He doodles obsessively with markers and also draws on his huge collection of images, selecting one that he likes and then blowing it up in a projector to transfer to canvas. He uses ladders and long brushes for his very large paintings. 

Some recent images are representations of money, cartoon wealth, iconic images of moneybags and dollar signs, and he notes that the background images are unrelated, he is disrupting one thing with another thing.

Someone in the audience asks about the white outline. He explains it’s not an outline. Rather, he overpaints the whole central area of the superimposed image with white so that what is underneath will not interfere, then paints on top of the white with a black outline and the white is just there because of not painting up to the edge.

Even though the lecture was almost an hour long and split into five parts, it was absorbing and full of interest. Previously I had found Baechler’s work puzzling and this answered some of the questions. 

His use of screen-printing is interesting because I do it myself, and have used it for the same reason, to incorporate a drawing in a painting. It’s a way of getting a detailed, intricate drawing the way you want it before committing to canvas. Baechler’s use of the medium goes far beyond mine, however. In an exhibition in New York he has used as many as 23 different colours in one painting, each requiring its separate screen and process.

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