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craig fisher
| cédric loir - art press | français

craig fisher, a new york artist born in 1951, begins each piece with a large canvas unrolled on the floor of his studio. this canvas is the medium, the receptacle, and the target for the various interventions of this artist as he lets himself go completely.

it would seem, at first, that making a painting is not his intention. his first movements are not motivated by a desire to insert a figure or to create any real compositional structure. they are basically meant to postpone the moment of a voluntary and assertive first stroke. the use of an unstretched and unprepared canvas means that it is pulled tight at some points and contracted at others, especially around the blobs, spilled paint forming thick spots on both the front and back of the canvas. when this first stage is completed - at a time determined by a mix of chance and arbitrariness - the borders, the space of the painting are finally defined by the cutting off and removal of a part of the already painted canvas, before proceeding to continue the work of painting, but now with the canvas mounted on a stretcher. the canvas is no longer virgin. it is marked with the stains of previous activities, and the painter must take this “given” into account.

nevertheless, his work is not limited to adapting his painting to a situation that predetermines it entirely. fisher carries out all sorts of experiments (brushstrokes, traces, imprints, projections) while curiously observing what he can produce. because the canvas is permeable, seeping through from the underside are the traces and vestiges of his preceding interventions. thus, a white brushstroke painted on the back results in a negative imprint in the middle of a colored area whose impregnation reappears on the reverse side, before being marked, sometimes but not always, with a dot or circle of a different color. this process of impregnation, of painting on the front and back, produces a sensation of thickness and a depth that sometimes seems almost like water. the painting seems sandwiched between two canvases in a perpetual state of tension between determination and indeterminacy, between making the painting and letting it make itself. all of these operations, these interventions, may seem dispersed, but it is in this dispersion that the painting comes into being and becomes able to meet our gaze.

in his recent canvas he lets more vivid and contrasted colors appear, in comparison with the more muted, shot tones of his previous work. in some canvases he only works on one side showing fisher’s determination not to allow himself to become locked into a particular procedural system; at the same time, they bring into play, from the beginning of his work on them, a greater tension between the aleatory, a taking advantage of stains and reliefs, and the mastery of the painter who intends, despite everything, to get at the canvas.

what fisher handles in his work is not only materials and tools but also the memory of the history of painting and the various movements within it. thus he is the heir to the deconstruction of the canvas by the support-surface painters, while a photo showing him in his studio recalls hans namuth’s snapshot of pollock at work, alternately busily moving around the canvas and scrutinizing it for long periods of time. his work also evokes, equally and diversely, simultaneous memories of klee, miro, hantai, the color field, painters and even bonnefoi because of the thickness conferred upon the surface and the constantly delayed first stroke.

despite these many references attesting to his consciousness of the history of painting, his work does not appear dogmatic or a prisoner of some pre-established program. the curious fisher is the first to observe what happens in the course of painting. he is able to maintain the impression that his work is a lighthearted suite of improvisation and diversions.

© cédric loire - translated from french, l-s torgoff.