Heather Day and Kathryn Macnaughton Embrace Experimentation in "Pour"
Joshua Liner Gallery is about to open Pour, a two-person exhibition featuring the work of San Francisco based artist, Heather Day and Toronto based artist, Kathryn Macnaughton. As the title suggests, Pour explores a dynamic approach to painting, characterized by the pouring and pushing of paint on and across the canvas. Embracing experimentation and chance, both artists create abstract paintings that study light, color, and movement. Macnaughton and Day have a complex and intuitive handling of paint, balancing raw expression with restraint. Each artist builds upon Abstract Expressionism’s gestural marks and expressive potential for color, adding their own personal narratives.
Inspired by her study of sensory perception, Day’s work connects “the thoughts between what is known and how it is felt,” capturing the profound and mundane situations she experiences through her lens of synesthesia. Synesthesia is the perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second. Day recounts, “When I’m experiencing heightened emotion, I see blurs of lush color in my peripheral vision, basically my mind interprets emotion as color. To me, it’s really there–as if I’m holding a colored filter over part of my vision. Looking straight ahead, my sight is unaffected but in the peripheries there are rich washes of cyan, burnt orange, phthalo blues, and fuchsia.”
For Pour, all of Day’s paintings were completed during a month-long residency at The Macedonia Institute in Upstate New York’s Hudson Valley during the month of December. Away from the daily distractions of living in the city, the rural and snowy environment gave Day the opportunity to reconsider the foundational aspects of her painting practice. Commenting on the quieting nature of snow, Day observes, “In a way, the snow is like a blank canvas, a platform on which smaller shifts and changes speak a little louder.”
When starting a painting, Day quickly adds marks to the blank canvas situated on the studio floor, allowing each mark to inform the next. Her repertoire of mark-making techniques includes pouring, dripping, and scraping paint across the canvas, drenching the canvas with water, and picking the canvas up to let gravity move the paint around. Similarly, Macnaughton’s process-based approach features manipulating paint with water.
In her practice, Macnaughton strives to “arrive at a visual balance within a seemingly chaotic approach,” that merges two distinct techniques. The artist first applies underlying washes of color to the canvas, moving the paint around with water. Next, using Photoshop, Macnaughton designs flat elements that are projected and painted over the washes. Despite their sheer and weightless nature, the underlying washes anchor the work and function like positive shapes, rather than negative ones. In merging these two processes, Macnaughton combines the technological with the painterly, arriving at post-analog painting, often described in terms of masking, layering, color-blocking, and silhouette. Macnaughton states, “I have always been interested in digitally composing my paintings. Where the development of the washes seems lawless, the digital compositing of the flat elements find their foundation in a practice more regulated: color theory, composition, and figure drawing.”
While Day’s practice is inspired by the natural world and sensory perception, Macnaughton’s is influenced by her previous illustration work and admiration for vintage color palettes. As an illustrator, the artist created collages by digitally smearing scanned images and ephemera to make them look abstract. These collages featured swathes of blurred color and a “cut and paste” application, which have elegantly translated into her current practice, in the form of expressive brushstrokes and sharp graphic lines. For this new body of work, Macnaughton explores motion, emphasized by the rapid gesture of the washes and bold pointed shapes that define the canvas.