My paintings exist at the crossroads of the sculptural and the painterly, where the interaction of the works’ elements enables them to exist both on a plane and in a space all at once. They are as much about the inside as they are about the surface and support. Layering and the building of sculptural relief-like structures have also been two consistent elements in my work. Together, process and materials are the means by which my work is generated and develops. I do not work from sketches or preliminary diagrams, but allow the work to develop on its own, taking cues from the materials themselves.
More recently, I have introduced a new element of sawing and cutting. I generally begin with common plywood and build up various layers with overlapping sheets of vellum and washy gesso to achieve a delicate, translucent surface. Then I reverse the process by carving back into the work to reveal both the original wood surface and its interior edges. The resulting fissures generate new edges and surfaces to which I can apply beeswax or small amounts of gouache. These proportionately small amounts of applied color accentuate the natural colors of the wood, whether it is laid bare or veiled beneath a whitewashed surface. The carved lines also become another means of drawing, as do the overlapping edges of the collaged vellum, the occasional pencil line, and the raised edges of a taped painted line or field. I am interested in the interplay between very subtle, almost hidden subtleties and the coarseness of an excavated surface, like the experience of listening to Satie in the rush-hour madness of Union Square subway station.
The impetus behind these works came from two thoughts that arose in my mind. First, if the edges of the works are so important, why not put them at the center of the work? Second, given that the issues of surface and support have long been at the center of abstract painting, has anyone thought to address the inside of both? Surface has everything to do with what lies beneath it. It is shaped, colored, and texturized by its physicality, whether thin or thick, visible or invisible. What happens on the surface begins deep within.
I see a relationship between photography and the development of my images. Before the perceptual depth of the two-dimensional image can exist, there is the physical depth of the surface from which it emanates. The photographic image is utterly reliant upon light penetrating the surface and activating its interior.
I have never been fully satisfied with or convinced by the simple dichotomy of “surface and support.” I’ve always felt that there was more, that the experience was potentially more complicated and full than that. There is a literal, physical depth to painting, one that inevitably enriches and accentuates a perceptual depth. Gertrude Stein is right: there is more there there.
Melissa Kretschmer, 2016
Drawdown, 2015, vellum, gesso, gouache and plywood, 102.9 x 121.9 cm
Conflux, 2015, vellum, gesso, gouache, pencil and plywood 185.4 x 243.8 cm
Crosscurrent, 2015, vellum, gesso, gouache and plywood, 87.6 x 167.6 cm