Ricky Swallow

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LESLEY VANCE

The Personal Desire to Destroy

LV

Los Angeles-­based painter Lesley Vance reflects on the spiritual moment of art and  the personal desire to destroy.

 

I’m really drawn to spiritualism in art, but I don’t know how to define that. I try to let the painting come to me. I have to start in a place of not knowing what I’m doing or what it’s going to look like. I try to not think about what I’m painting or what’s happening on the canvas for a while. I play. There comes a point where my brain—my consciousness of what’s happening—creeps in. That’s when it becomes more of a cerebral activity. A lot of the time the painting feels like it’s making itself and I’m just guiding it along. That’s a good energy to maintain throughout the whole process.

 

I do a lot of spacing out and staring at the painting. I take a lot of breaks because sometimes I need to see it new again. Often, I take a picture and look at it on the screen to see it more objectively. When you’re really in something, it can be difficult to see how it needs to change.

Artwork by Lesley Vance | NeueJournal Issue 1

Untitled, 2015. Untitled, 2015 Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, California. Photography: Fredrik Nilsen

 

Sculpture and ceramics are a huge influence, as much as painting. I love Ken Price and Ron Nagle, the intensity of color in their work and the singularity of the forms. There’s something interesting about this really meaty, rich color in ceramics—it’s color you can eat, and I think color in painting has the same power. I’m into rich color becoming an object.

 

I’m drawn to the act of destruction. I taught a class once, and one of the projects was to make something and then rip it apart, but I didn’t tell the students they were going to do this at the outset. It’s liberating to realize that you can destroy something you made and start anew. Sometimes an entire painting revolves around one moment, and then I finally realize that I need to discard that moment. It’s a powerful feeling when you aren’t attached to something, even though it’s work that you made. You can destroy it and it’s fine.

Artwork by Lesley Vance | NeueJournal Issue 1

Untitled, 2015. Untitled, 2015 Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, California. Photography: Fredrik Nilsen

 

My attitude is that every painting I create informs the next. It’s a challenge to make small work that’s not too precious; it requires a different kind of concentration. In big paintings, you don’t notice every inch of the painting. If you’re looking at a small painting you truly notice every brushstroke. Everything becomes hyper-important. I want to make paintings that are really vivid and deal with colors, while still being my own idiosyncratic, weird thing.

 

My husband, Ricky Swallow, and I work in the same building. We give each other a lot of creative support and advice. We like to get feedback from each other. Even though it might be difficult at times, it’s constructive. We don’t bring these discussions home with us. It helps to have a separate place. We have a different relationship there. It’s helpful to be with another artist—someone who understands it all. We’re both romantic artists. We’re both a bit hermetic.

 

Photography: Zoe Ghertner for NeueJournal 

Artwork: Lesley Vance