Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blurring the Boundaries: Ann Taratino's Works on Paper

Sketch Pages chats with Ann Tarantino on how she blurs the boundaries between drawing and painting in her process driven works.

About the Artist
Ann Tarantino works on paper and on canvas, using ink and other water-based media. She has an MFA from Pennsylvania State University and a BA from Brown University. Her work has been shown in galleries and institutions across the country. Most recently, she has collaborated with Kate McGraw for an exhibition of works at Curator's Office in Washington, DC. In the spring of 2009, she will partner with McGraw again on a large-scale wall drawing and video installation at Flashpoint, also in Washington.and now for the questions...

Image Info. from top to bottom: Brazil (try again), 2008, ink an gouache on paper, 30 x 22;
Brazil (stripes), 2008, ink an gouache on paper, 18 x 24; Brazil (blue explosion), 2008, ink an gouache on paper, 24 x 18

Can you describe your work process in creating your recent works on paper?
Recently my work has become increasingly process-based. I've been using my breath for the past few years as a mark-making tool, using it to blow ink and other water-based media through straws. I've also recently started working with other gestural and performative techniques in the last couple years or so--throwing ink at the paper or canvas, putting the paper on the floor and allowing ink or paint to drip onto it, and so forth. At first this felt really out of control and I kind of liked that I couldn't determine what the outcome would be. But the more I get into the process I realize that there is a technique to it, and that I have more control than it might seem, although the element of chance is always there. There are certain motions or movements that I can repeat to create certain marks or images; they're different each time, but spring from the same place and bear the same imprint. I used to kind of separate things into parts--the gestural, "out of control" part and then they tighter, more controlled part of working back into the images with paint and more ink--but now I sometimes do both simultaneously, or work back into things, such that there are a lot of layers and different stages of the process.

Your work is full of surprising contradictions. Can you discuss how control and noncontrol have become important in carrying out your concepts.
I tend to be a ruthless editor, at least when my own work is concerned, so the experience of working with chance is humbling for me. I've had to force myself to keep things around, just to stick the "reject" pieces in a drawer of my flat file and promise myself not to look at them and come back to them later. I think that when I work back into the images, I am responding to what was made through a chance-based process (even with the small element of control that I describe above), so in a way I feel the image itself is deciding what it needs to become a finished piece. And the drawing/painting line is a fuzzy one for me. I've been engaged in a continual project of trying to make a drawing on canvas, and I'm realizing now that maybe it doesn't really matter. Sometimes I'm tempted to dispense with canvas altogether and just work on paper.

The subjects on paper exist somewhere between pure gestures and images. This also references both drawing and painting. How do you strike that balance as you work?
I've never had an interest in representation, at least in my own work. I'm most interested in images that hover between representation and abstraction, and this is where I hope my work lies. The gestural act of making the images is important, but I hope it references other things, that exist in the world already or that feel familiar somehow, like something a viewer might remember from a dream.

Can you talk about how Western and Eastern influences on your ideas and drawings/paintings?
I have a longtime interest in how the body experiences and interacts with space and that has led to an interest in landscape and landscape painting, both Eastern and Western. From 2004-2006 I lived in Kyoto, Japan, where I experienced not only a completely different culture but also an entirely different way of thinking about space (social, personal, public, etc.), and this had a real influence on my work. In Kyoto we lived in the northeastern hills of the city near Mount Hiei, known for its "marathon monks" and their endurance running through the mountains near our home. I was really struck by this idea of physical sacrifice, repetition, and the attainment of spirituality through physical exertion, and this is when I started to really explore working with my breath as a mark-making tool.

Along with your personal works, you also do collaborative drawing with Kate McGraw. (This will be discussed more indepthly in another interview.) What are the parallels in your drawing/painting process with your personal work and collaborative?
With Kate I've been forced to give up some of the control I cultivate in my individual work, and that's been great for me. She is a wonderful and fearless maker who never second-guesses herself, and I've learned from her. There are a lot of formal and aesthetic links in my own work and the collaboration--I still tend toward small bits of color used economically for maximum impact, and little surprises for the viewer, like small threads of ink underneath Kate's graphite marks, for example. Process-wise, we respond to one another as we go, so this is another change in working style, as there is a whole other audience/editor/artist involved and we go back and forth and share opinions and we don't always agree. But we keep going, and that's what's made the whole project with Kate so great, is that there is always more to do and we are always excited about doing it.

In regards to your personal work are there any new developments? Do you see chance playing greater role or control?
Right now I'm still wrestling with the drawing/painting bit, when I'm on my own, and working toward the Flashpoint project, when I'm with Kate. And I have a new idea for a drawing-based installation project that I've just started thinking about. I suppose I am starting to think more about installation and projects as opposed to individual pieces, so my work might go toward that direction for awhile. As for the chance vs. control question I am as eager as anyone to find out.

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