Art Sake: Studio Views - Joshua Meyer

May 2011

Through persistence and hard work, Joshua Meyer (Painting Fellow ’10) has found that ultra sweet spot where paintings hover between order and chaos. One of the delights of his work is the transformation of the physical material of paint into a seemingly living breathing figure inhabiting an interior life. Let’s take a look at his studio and paintings.

I try to keep a lot of paintings going at the same time. I like to see works in progress in my peripheral vision while I’m at work on other pieces. When everything is going on simultaneously, the paintings can keep each other company. They talk to each other, start a little dialogue. If I’m stuck on on piece I can leap into another. On a really good day I am working on three or four paintings at the same time. (And on a really bad day I am destroying three or four paintings in one fell swoop). The ideas and colors and energy leap from one to another—they solve each other’s problems and teach each other their tricks.

Intervals, 2011 I Oil on canvas I 40 x 40 inches
Intervals, 2011 I Oil on canvas I 40 x 40 inches

There is always noise in the studio. Silences are awful—I can’t concentrate when the room is too quiet. I am usually listening to music, sometimes podcasts of radio shows. Since I don’t have a clock in the studio, I often tell time by the length of the songs or podcasts that have come and gone. It has something to do with focus and rhythm.

Half of the time I have someone modeling for me in the room, and the rest of the time I am alone. It is an important balance to strike. When I have company I get very self-conscious and even compulsive, and when I am alone I can get lost in the paint. So the paintings hang in that balance between facts and memories, between details and exuberance, between paint and ideas. Too much in any direction and the paintings would be stale. Without the model I can paint ferociously, endlessly. Then the model comes back, and I realize all of the ridiculous exaggerations I’ve made, so I focus and fix, search and seek. Then when they leave again I can finally step back and see all of the myopic and overwrought things I’ve done in search of some unnecessary accuracy. I do this dance over and over until the paintings are full of interesting contradictions and ideas.

Of course when I paint from life, the studio itself becomes a character in the pictures. The chairs and the shelves, the nooks and the crannies have anchored so many of my paintings. There are gargoyles, power tools and piles of books, and they return again and again to the images. My paintings are collections of everything that is going on in my life, so of course the state of the studio usually reflects some of the same as well.

Unclose, 2011 I Oil on canvas I 48 x 90 inches
Unclose, 2011 I Oil on canvas I 48 x 90 inches

Joshua’s paintings will be exhibited in the exhibition New and Recent Work by 13 Massachusetts Cultural Council Award Recipients in Painting and Drawing at Tufts University Art Gallery,The Aidekman Arts Center, June 2-July 31, 2011, Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 (closed July 2 and 3). Opening reception and artist talk Thursday, June 2, 5-8 pm.

Image credit: All images courtesy Joshua Meyer