In Dialogue with Elizabeth Hazan
The small and large scale paintings Elizabeth Hazan made this summer will be in a two person show with the British painter Nicola Stephanie, who makes three dimensional wall works, at Turn Gallery. The New York City gallery has just moved from the Lower East Side to a townhouse space at 68th street between Madison and Park, an area with a lot of galleries nearby. The exhibition opens on October 30th.
AS: Tell me about the genesis of the work in Body to Land, your upcoming two woman show at Turn Gallery.
EH: A few years ago, I began making ink and watercolor drawings that I approach almost like a stream of consciousness writing exercise. I work as if from a hovering, aerial vantage point: I picture the paper as an empty field where I can draw in the dirt with ink lines that move around this field, and then start to move upwards towards an area that is like a sky, scooping volumes of air with a looping line. I had seen Ardent Nature, the show of late Gorky landscapes at Hauser and Wirth and the way he moved through the space, from a horizontal plane in front to strange vertical forms at the top made a big impression on me. He suggested landscape with color and some tree-like shapes, but the openness and ambiguity was captivating.
When I am making these drawings, I am thinking as much about how the lines take the viewer around the picture, and how these forms can refer to the language of modernist abstraction as I am thinking about evoking the light and atmosphere of a landscape.
AS: You seem to explore abstraction in landscape painting. Can you elaborate on that?
EH: I find that border between abstraction and landscape fertile and open to exploration, and a lot of artists who work in that terrain I find exciting and inspiring, from Joan Mitchell, Per Kirkeby and Bill Jensen to Amy Sillman and Lisa Sanditz. I spent a lot of time as a child in the East End of Long Island in a house surrounded by open farmland. I want the paintings both to capture memory I have of that time and place and to explore imaginative possibilities that spring from it. I find that using watercolors, with the unexpected, unnamable colors I can achieve and the quick flow of the paint, I can tap into am almost surreal, heightened version of nature that feels somehow true.to experience, especially with all the images we now see of the climate pushed to extremes. Last summer, we were on vacation in Samos, Greece and we could see wildfires in the distance in Turkey, and the fantastic cloud shapes reminded me of ones I had conjured up in my recent paintings.
AS: Tell me about your process.
EH: I take the drawings and turn them into small scale paintings where I try to retain the freshness and immediacy that comes from using watercolor and offers me ideas I might not have arrived at if I started directly in oil paint. I’m able to achieve fluency using the work on paper as the basis, and then try to remain open to the ways oil paint makes the paintings different and change them as I go. From these smaller works, that are often about 24” x 20”, I pick a few and make large versions. I’m doing this all freehand, so each version comes out differently, which is important to me. I hope that this essential openness comes through.
AS: How has the quarantine affected your work?
EH: This Spring right before the City shut down, I brought all my ink and watercolor supplies home, not knowing what was to come, and also bought a little travel guitar. The first couple of months, I just made drawings, and discovered that guitar is really hard. When you first contacted me to write something for Art Spiel on how I was coping, I thought who knows if I’m coping yet. My family and I then spent a lot of the Spring and Summer in a house on Long Island that we usually rent out. There’s a barn studio, and my husband, the artist Steve Hicks, and I shared that, each working about four hours a day. We developed a kind of routine that felt stabilizing even though everything was so upside down from normal. To make the larger paintings, I went in to my studio in Brooklyn. I have this terrific studio through the Two Trees Cultural Space Program and it was a pleasure to be able to go there and work
This is where I also run Platform, an exhibition space where I show the work of fellow artists. I had put together a really interesting group show scheduled to open in March, and it was very difficult to make the call to postpone it. Franklin Evans was making a site specific installation for it, and a large sculpture by Michelle Segre was about to be picked up the next day when together we understood that it couldn’t happen. I felt a huge responsibility to the artists and to their work, to keep them all safe. Instead, this Sunday, November 1st, Platform will open with a one person show by the painter Paul Whiting, who also runs George Gallery.
AS: How do you view this body of paintings within the context of your overall work?
EH: I’m not sure yet how this current group of paintings differs from the ones I made before the shutdown. A couple of the paintings at the gallery were made in January and February, but of course there was already a sense of unease then. The concerns about the world around us seep into the work in sometimes unconscious ways. The farmland out East where I was this summer has been a source of inspiration for several years and I hadn’t spent this much time there since I was a teenager, so I expected the paintings might grow more representational when I had the fields to look at directly (the ones that remain at least). That didn’t happen, maybe because I spent so much time focused on making exploratory drawings from my imagination. The resulting paintings are, in terms of landscape, just as fanciful and unexpected as before. The novelist, Emma Cline, talks about the dream logic in her writing, and I think that’s an appropriate term for what I want my imagery to be, something that feels knowable yet full of possibility.
Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: email@example.com