About three years ago letter forms started creeping into my paintings. At first I had an obsession with X not because it was a letter but because it could be read as a negation. It lead me to think about other letters in terms of their compositional iconography. Then last winter I thought: well, why not words?
I think about words, phrases, the structure of language, and the making of meaning in a practical way on a daily basis. I have worked as an English as a foreign language teacher for seven years. At first that work was separate from what I do as an artist but over time there have been some interesting cross-overs.
Even though I’ve been starting with letters and words to inspire the composition (and sometimes color or texture) I don’t mind if the painting takes over and the whole thing becomes illegible. I’m sometimes hesitant to talk about the words in the painting because I don’t want to impinge on whatever meaning the viewer has constructed for him/herself. The compositions are a kind of visual game, so even if the viewer can’t immediately see a word, perhaps over time a message can emerge. Or not, and that’s fine. That’s one of the way my work as a teacher and as an artist differs; I’m always trying to get my students to communicate clearly while in my own work I’m happy to cultivate interpretation.
This is a painting I made in the spring of this year titled Loves or Leaves and a discussion worksheet I made awhile back for my students in Art Club. -Nichole van Beek, 2013