Annell Livingston

El Prado, New Mexico, USA

My experience of the world occurs not as a whole, but as fragments, which are partly revealed, partly concealed. I have been working with the grid since 1986, and I have found it to be a perfect visual language to capture my experiences of these fragments as I’ve experienced them in both manmade and natural environments. For me the grid is a flexible language that continues to open new doors and pose new visual problems to be solved.

My work over the years has been inspired by personal observations of light and color, and how they change from time to time, place to place. When I lived in Houston, Texas, the light came from the big sky. I would observe the light, how it changed during the day, and I would try to capture my observations in words in a journal. In the studio I would try to create color from my words using a format of grids based on the square. These paintings became metaphors for the urban experience. The light that came through my downtown studio skylight could be harsh or glaring as it came in reflected off glass and other manmade materials. I often used metallic paint to suggest this light as can be seen in my Urban Intersections Series from 1989-93.

In 1994 I moved to Taos, which is a Northern New Mexico rural scene. The question was how to continue my work. The square felt too much, “man over nature.” It was the addition of the diagonal line that allowed me to think of the irregularity of the landscape and colors based on nature. I consider my Fragments Series from 1996-2005 to be abstract narratives, stories told through the weaving together of forms and colors derived from the direct experience of nature—rocks, the strata of canyon walls, the sky, the times of the day, the seasons.

In New Mexico I have created many series of grid-based works. For example in the series A Day in the Life … (2007-08), I am observing how the light in the high mountain desert changes over the course of a day, and I use that as a metaphor for the life of the average human being.

My most recent series of grid-based work, Fragments, Geometry and Change (2012-ongoing), is once again based on the observable phenomena of changing light and color in nature. The works parallel nature, but do not directly reflect it. In this series I use simultaneous contrast, which is the use of two colors painted side by side that interact with one another and affect the viewer’s sense of color. Though the actual shapes are not altered, patterns appear, disappear, and change in their appearance.

My work can be seen as pages of a diary or a personal journal, and like poetry, one idea dissolves into another, and each series of work becomes a sequence of new images. Like each new day, forever changing …


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