The paint gap

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Dahl, Samuel Alcibiades, 1980-

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Underlying all my work is a tension between the painter and the builder. I love to paint. I love the lie inherent in paint: that it can make a picture plane masquerade as light, space, or recognizable place with recognizable figuration. I love how paint—particularly oil paint—can rest in gloppy piles, how it can drip, splatter, spread, or how it can squeeze out of paint tubes in long, stringy beads. I love how paint changes how we see an interior space or a three-dimensional form. Yet I also love building things—usually out of wood—measuring and cutting, fastening things together—all to serve a function or solve a problem. In every studio I have had, there has always been an arms race between my fine art supplies and my tools. My work during my three years at the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin has undergone some dramatic changes. In large part this paper will elaborate and evaluate the trajectory of these changes. Yet, in spite of these changes, the competing impulses to paint and to build have remained constant. This report will leave unanswered the question whether these two impulses can or should be reconciled, kept separate, or whether one should be sacrificed in favor of the other. The artist writing this report does not know at this point in time, and cannot hope to answer this question without making more work in a new context. This report instead will reveal how I arrived at the work I am making at the time of writing this report, and why I regard this new body of work as being about the “paint gap.” I define the “paint gap” as the distinction—mild or strong—between paint itself and the object or surface upon which paint is applied.



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