Tom Martinelli

Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

I currently work with a vocabulary of simple rounded shapes, fields of (mostly) flat color and the character of a painted edge. I use stencils, paint rollers and spray paint that allow me to cover large areas with a single attentive movement as well as serving a preference for minimizing the presence of my hand. Rather than cleanly delineating shape, I work with edges that are often “imperfect” due to the process of using a stencil on a canvas surface and the bleeding of paint that can occur. Accidental edges can have something of a life of their own. In my recent painting I work off a central vertical axis, but with a non-measured placement of shapes that can produce slight and unexpected asymmetries. Forms begin to suggest their own universe of gravitational repulsion and attraction, compression and expansion. Although I start with a plan, I tend to “play it by ear,” and sometimes the paintings move elsewhere. My response to both the the material in my hand and the color is always a factor in the direction a work takes.

As well as working with relational shape, I also work with pattern and system. I have bodies of work that use geometries as a means to generate a pattern, usually optical. In these works I apply paint by overlapping layers of transparent and saturated color to produce a result close to black. I combine a systematic approach of application using stencils with a shifting registration between the layers of color.

Geometry for me has always been a grounding vehicle for abstraction. It can act as an architecture that needs no explanation. It doesn’t require a reference to things in the world and can open the possibility of a wordlessly rich experience. Having a history and practice of yoga and meditation, I feel an affinity with both Agnes Martin and Kasimir Malevich, each of whom engaged in painting that sought to embody what Malevich referred to as “pure feeling.” I understand this to be non-reactive or non-polarized emotion—that is, “feeling” that isn’t generated as a response to something, but which simply exists as its own deep and natural substratum. I think this is a state-of-being that abstraction and geometry have a capability to move viewers towards as they reflect on their own unfolding perceptual experience.

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