Q: What is abstract painting?
A: I use that term to describe what I do, yet I can’t explain what it is. When I try, my words go in circles. The simple reason for this incoherence is that abstract painting occurs outside words, beyond words.
I turn to Wikipedia, which tells us:
“Abstract art uses a visual language of form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.”
Q: Why would someone want to speak in a “visual language” to create compositions independent of...??
A: I turn to Steve McQueen, who famously said, “I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.”
My favorite nowhere is an empty linen rectangle on the wall.
I’m in an old rackety station wagon, road trip on 2-lane highways. The gas station map eluded, as always, proper refolding; it’s a crumpled mess, sun faded and coffee stained. My left arm resting on the window sill; the car so familiar that it pretty much drives itself. I don’t know where I’m going or how to recognize that I’ve arrived. What could be more fun?
On the seat beside me is not a dog; instead sitting there are colors and lines and textures and shapes. And the shapes in between, and the lines that have faded, and the colors that flip inside out, and the ….. And the space. And the time.
The time. That is the greatest unknown. How long until I arrive? Or rather, until we arrive? The colors and shapes and lines and textures – they are the true travelers. I just follow them along. Listening to the radio, stopping at small towns, surprised by tiny bugs on the windshield, the sudden thunderstorm. What could be more fun?
When my husband’s children were small, they’d drive with him in a station wagon and when approaching a state border line - say of Nevada - they’d all start chanting: “we’re not in Nevada, we’re not in Nevada, we’re not in Nevada……… “WE’RE IN NEVADA!” as the line was crossed.
That’s what abstract painting is like. You’re driving along and suddenly you arrive.
The way I paint is, a color suggests itself; a shape appears. I consider. I make another color/shape. The painting responds and shifts. I respond, shift; and this does not end until the painting has a sort of “jump,” a flickering balance, an eye pulse – and the threshold from inanimate object to alive is crossed.
We’ve arrived. Where are we? Another nowhere. A place that is alive and itself and that is enough.
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