SANTA FE, NM.- Black murmurs, a molten seep-line of red. Smoke. Blue sea ice. The seam of gold that runs through a dark cave. The solid faces of these paintings, predominantly dark-hued, gleaming like black ice, hide fathomless depths. Step forward and the small details, minute shifts, color flux, begin to come into focus. What seemed to be a solid plane of black is complexified by currents, an undertow of colors changing monochrome into myriad.
The plane of the canvas is interrupted (in some cases erupted) by geometry: a line, a square, the etched outline of a rectangle, a quarter circle. The intersection of these shapes and color planes is volatile. Colors seep up from deep below the surface. Contrasts tug at the eye and mind. Some of the geometric shapes suggest architecture, scaffoldingbut in a way that bypasses the literal and runs straight to metaphor. The seeming architecture of a piece like Dark Intervals speaks to the essence of what architecture is and does, how it gives shape not only to the world, but to the mind. In the paintings in Flux the viewer is confronted by form and forced to see it, to recognize its imposition against the undifferentiated ground of being (the color plane).
What rises up from the depths of these paintings by Clark Walding is the evidence of time and of process. Color is not an end result but the record of a history rising up through layers to reveal itself, finally, just below the surface of the canvas. This physical effect is mirrored by the methods that Walding uses to create the pieces, each of which is the result of months (if not years) of work. Walding uses Japanese knifes to put down a layer of oil paint and wax (in some of the earlier pieces he also used alkyd). Each layer variessome nearly transparent while others are nearly opaque. The lines and geometric shapes are The lines and geometric shapes are incised with graphite sticks or pencil and backfilled with paint from the edge of a knife. As Walding builds the layers up, he also revises and strips awaygoing back to scrape the canvases or apply chemical wipes which remove layers and alter surface texture. He calls this method of revision repentances. Repentance is an apt word as it points toward not only the physical process which becomes so apparent in the final pieces, but toward the visceral effect of the works on the viewer. Walding is always looking again, changing, altering. The paintings are always in flux. The viewer has this same experience, seeing first the ice-face of these pieces, then revising their view on closer inspection, revising again as detail and depths inspire an emotional response. It is a paradox of these pieces that they can present such an elemental and solid presence, and yet simultaneously an inherent mutability.
But meaning cannot be imposed. Just like the color in these pieces is itself emergent, rather than superimposed, the stirring of emotion and meaning within the viewer while looking at one of these paintings does not come from the top down. It bubbles slowly up in layers. It is not, as one reviewer has said, so much that these paintings get under your skin. Rather the experience is more like the discovery that these paintings have always been there, just under the skin, all along, only the viewer didnt realize it before. This is how close these paintings, repentance after repentance, come to the viewer. There is recognition, a sense of familiarity and yet of challenge. And of change.
Clark Walding is always asking a question: of the painting, of the world, of the viewer. The paintings in the exhibition, Flux, will challenge the viewer to engage in this process of questioning and recognition.