Thursday, August 4, 2011

Liz Ainslie

I visited Liz Ainslie in her studio in Williamsburg recently. She had a totally relaxed rejuvenated feel about her, having just returned from her time at Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, NY. Ainslie shared the experience of being away; nowhere to rush off to, no sticky train to hop on, left only with time to spend in her studio. Dreamy. She has a great set up here in Brooklyn too. Her studio is in a loft apartment that she also lives in. Liz has a large working space with a desk for doing drawings and a space off of it that is dedicated to her paintings. Living with a writer and another painter, the loft has a totally creative and dynamic vibe about it.

Ainslie shared her newest work with me, a group of paintings that she has titled "Stick Lines." She has extracted portions of her previous body of work to use in these paintings, lines that either float on their own or act as a barrier between different values or colors, thus creating shapes that drift in and out of our  understanding of perspective. Studio visits give me the chance to compare one group of work with examples from earlier ones, going as far back as the artists would like to share, in a way that an exhibition can not. I get to act like a detective, finding the evidence of a particular painting's motives by looking closely at a painting made at an earlier time. Liz's studio was a great place for this.
We talked about her influences: Guston, Vuillard, Bonnard... It is like minimalist sculpture meets post-impressionism, which makes for an exciting, unexpected juxtaposition. Patterns of the paint's marks sometimes build simple free-floating shapes that speak of a portrait by the way the painting is oriented, but ultimately portray simplicity and purity of form.

Liz: I really like 70's minimalist art too, but I think it's about the shapes.
 While I was there, I was able to witness a painting being made from the ground up, nearly to its conclusion. I have to say I have always been curious about how she approaches her work -- I suppose because they do seem like paintings of fictional sculptures. Ainslie explained that she first applies a very bright underpainting to the canvas. In this instance she made luscious brushes of fuchsia.  Then she begins to mark in the lines and colored shapes. She worked fluidly, with unwavering confidence in where she was going. Lovely to watch.

I couldn't help but draw her drawing. 

Above are two pictures Liz took both inside and out of her studio at Millay. 

It was a splendid day with Liz. I enjoyed hearing about her time upstate and was salivating at the amazing opportunity it gave her to release all of the tensions of living in a city. And she came away from it with some fantastic paintings. We hurried off for some Thai food and a beer post art-making. We beat the heat in a shady backyard garden. To explore more of these fab works go to

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