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        Oona Ratcliffe
       


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                        Interview

  Short Fiction, The Visual Literacy Journal, Issue 6 - 2012

Oona Ratcliffe, in Short Fiction,
The Visual Literacy Journal
,
Plymouth University and Arts Council England, Issue Six, 2012

Anthony Caleshu’s interview with Oona Ratcliffe took place in July 2012.

AC: What makes a successful painting for you?

OR: Many hours of looking and working. Materially it is a moment when the elements of the composition come together in a state of apprehension, stillness and simultaneous action. Like throwing a series of objects up into the air and capturing the moment when they are hovering – in motion but still. Some paintings’ success comes out of addressing more explosive energies – energy propelled centrifugally or centripetally.

I’m wondering about your compositional process. Is it organic or planned?

I start with drawing, as a work unto itself or as preparation for a painting. I use drawing to lay out a painting which morphs and evolves as a composition develops, the picture in large scale, building and deconstructing, torquing color relationships and structural elements. Finished paintings are then used to create new drawings. Information develops and accumulates working in the space of painting, information that can be taken back to drawings. This looping between works – recording of action developing in paintings, drawings pinpointing this action, developing things further, paintings moving yet further – makes visual subject matter, abstract language on flat two dimensional surfaces.

Has the work ever resisted your intentions to the point of failure or abandonment?

Paintings and drawings can be either too weak in their simplicity or overly worked in complexity so that the information – marks – begin to simply cancel one another out, or the color muddies and lacks clarity and light. Hopefully it is possible to save a piece by working through moments like these, repainting, taking out information. The challenge can be satisfying or very frustrating, inevitably very time-consuming and producing some anxiety in the struggle. I sometimes feel that if moments like these do not occur in a work it won’t have the potential to be a successful piece. A lot of power comes out of resolving conflict. Failure may come as well so one must know when it is best to let go.

There are moments when the abstract almost becomes topographical, as if you’re mapping a landscape. Could you talk about your project in terms of ‘mapping’?

It is curious that you would bring up the question of mapping. For a long period of time when I was traveling by plane between where I live in New York City to where my family lives in rural northern California I would use the time in the air to draw and photograph the amazing structures of land below. The study of topography was a great source of inspiration and a continuation of my early work as a landscape painter. As my painting activities began to be more studio focused and my imagery increasingly based in language developed painting-to-painting, elements of mapping in the work became more abstract. Sometimes the paintings appear to examine a cross sectional slice of the flesh... sometimes the cellular structure of ice, sometimes the underwater interaction of plants moving in their aqueous environment.

Text, in the form of single words, appears on the canvas in several pieces. And there’s certainly an interest in language in your titles. How are language and image related for you?

Language appearing in paintings is something relatively new for me. It started as a fascination with words, their meanings and definitions and a desire to ground paintings built with marks with something seemingly concrete, language. The use of text imbues paintings with new layers of meaning, words introducing an entire set of semiological meaning. Often the word painted is obfuscated by marks, hidden within the painting. If a viewer allows some time in front of a work they might discover what could be a bit of text, lurking in the composition of the piece – provoking questions as to whether it defines the action of the painting, let alone initiating the mysterious question of discovering what the word is (which is not always clear). Sometimes a word is simply sitting as its unadulterated self. In this case it exerts a reflective pressure against the image in the work.





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                        Curriculum Vitae

  Born in Bolinas, California
Lives and works in New York City
University of California at Santa Cruz, B.A. 1996
Hunter College, City University of New York, M.F.A. 2003
 
Solo Exhibitions
   
2014   Cure8 Group. Brooklyn, New York
2009   Deep Forgetting’ (6.3MB pdf), gallerynine5, New York
2006   Bowery Arts and Sciences, Inc., New York
2004   Susan Inglett Gallery, New York
2003   “Master of Fine Arts Thesis Show,” Hunter College, New York
 
Group Exhibitions
   
2015   2015 From Here. Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, California
2015   Topography. Gallery Nine 5, New York
2014   Salon No.2 Mid Autumn - Winter. Cure8 Group, New York
2014   Graphic: of or relating to visual art. Gallery Nine 5, New York
2013   Collective. Gallery Nine 5, New York
2012   Dumbstruck. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2011   Designers and Agents. Chelsea Art Museum, New York
2010   Casheesh. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2010   Casheesh 3. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2010   Casheesh 4. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2009   The Visual Vagina. David Nolan Gallery, New York
2009   Greenpoint Show. Yes Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
2009   Miniature Show. Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, California.
2009   The Great Impression. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2009   Casheesh. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2009   Showcase. Gallery Nine 5, New York
2008   Miniature Show. Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, California
2008   Gouache Show. Jeff Bailey Gallery, New York
2008   Inaugural Group Show. Gallery Nine 5, New York
2007   Miniature Show. Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, California
2007   It’s Gouache & Gouache Only. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2006   Likeness. Geoffrey Young Gallery. Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2006   Through the Cultural Corridor. Storefront Artist Project, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
2006   Metlife. Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York
2006   Jack. Roberts & Tilton, Los Angeles, California
2006   The Diligent Hand. Gallery 64, Brooklyn, New York
2005   Radical Vaudeville. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2005   Miniature Show. Bolinas Museum, Bolinas, California
2004   International Exchange Exhibition. Times Square Gallery, Hunter College, New York
2004   Tastes Like Chicken. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2004   Colored Pencil. KS Art, New York
2004   Inside Scoop (By Design). Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2003   St. Valentine Day Massacre. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
2003   Need To Know Basis. Geoffrey Young Gallery, Great Barrington, Massachusetts
 
Awards / Honors
   
2005   Yaddo Residency, Janet Sloane Award. Saratoga Springs, New York
Janet Sloane Residency Award, Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York
2003   Graf Travel Grant, Hunter College, City University of New York
1994   Textiles Study Grant, University of California Santa Cruz
 
Education
 
Master of Fine Arts. Hunter College, City University of New York. New York, 2003.
Ecole de Louvre. Paris, France, 2001.
Bachelor of Arts. University of California at Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz, California, 1996.
Universitas Gadjah Mada. Java, Indonesia, 1994-5.




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                        Artist Statement

  My paintings map a world where perpetual suspension in the immediate present, the right now, becomes a consumptive mode of being. At once flamboyantly seductive and discomfortingly repulsive the paintings are saturated with color areas organized into disparate energetic structures. Creating deep and shallow spaces, varying directional shifts and particulate undulations these structures invite the eye to skitter across the painting's surfaces. By keeping the opposition between the figure and ground unsettled, the picture constantly shifts; there are no resting points. Metaphorically enacting an existence governed by the moment and a frenetic, dislocated seeking of immediate sensation, it is my hope that this work will show its viewers the opulent, sensuous and attractive -- but paradoxically ungrounded, shallow and disordered -- permutations of such a state.






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