A Conversation: Raychael Stine
Something to consider: How does Painting handle love? Or better yet, can a painting be infused with love? Raychael Stine (NAP #78) believes that a painting that comes from a place of love can serve a greater function beyond an innocuous object. Painting can be used to cope and sometimes that coping deals with issues that pertain to love. I don’t remember the last time someone used the “L” word when speaking about their practice as it may come off as trite. But at the same time are we so cynical not to believe that painting and love do not go hand in hand? Stine pushes beyond these initial queries to a place where life, and love, is reaffirmed through the act of painting. - Arthur Peña, Dallas Contributor
Arthur Peña: During a recent visit to a friend’s studio I saw a note that asked the question, "When does nature dissolve into abstraction?" This suggests not an instant transformation but a slow shift from one state to another. Do you see this idea relating to your work?
Raychael Stine: To me, shifting from one thing into another is very linear and I don't think my work is linear like that. It is really circular and cyclical. Sort of like coming back to something over and over again, from a different position, rather than following a trajectory. Thinking about nature is an abstraction. Thinking is abstract. Translating aspects of nature and relationship through paint or image (the light in the studio, the warm space in between a blanket and skin, or the space between gazes, or what two weeks of time might look like) is also an abstraction. The thoughts about relationships between things, space and sense and then creating pictorial or material translations of these aspects, these are representations of non-things, of sensate experiences. So for me all abstraction is a representation of something even if it is just of itself. All representation is an abstraction. It’s very grey and I like that. There is room to play in there.
AP: Your way of working between complete visual representation and a painterly representation of abstraction compresses the work and squeezes out unexpected dialogues. What is it that holds all of the work together?
RS: The desire to engage physically, emotionally, temporally with the subject(s) over and over again. The desire to record and to spend compressed time with the subjects. There is never one subject, there are many that are intertwined. Like picturing the intimate relationship between beings, between myself and my dogs, the emotional relationship and the physical, and how those are connected- the relationship between pictures, images, materials and their own content. And between painting and paintings. I am interested in what relationships mean and how they change and evolve or don't and how to create an image of that. There is also the desire to picture or describe the disconnect that exists between what I imagine is my "Self" and everything else and describe that remove through paint or pictures. The relationship between each piece is always shifting and moving. In a more immediate way each painting holds the work together by having their own autonomy as well sharing a formal and compositional repetition. I like to think that they have a knowing and understanding relationship with each other and as individuals they know way more than I do about each other.
AP: Since you speak of your work in terms of desire and engagement with the world in which you occupy, what happens when you've finished a painting? Is it ever as satisfying as you hoped it would be?
Raychael Stine | 10. Saturn, 2009. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 17 x 13 in.
RS: I actually find finishing paintings super satisfying. Since so many of them end up being the same one in some respect. They are all approaching a memory, process or experience in another way, later in time, or even from a "before" place. I never think about my work generally as being "done." It’s just connected to life unfolding all the time. Sort of like all the steps in grieving entail going back in some way, right? I am grieving a lot in paintings especially those that deal with Pickle, my dog, dying as well as grieving a certain kind of painting, a certain method. But I think also there are huge aspects of the work that are filled with joy, tenderness and pleasure all intertwined with this grief. There is a kind of preservative care going on.
AP: I had no idea that pickle had passed. That really changes the context of the portraits. Peter Halley wrote about the function of the portrait and the role it plays in defeating death in his essay Frozen Land. Halley states, “ With the portrait, the image of a person is no longer subject to time; it can transcend death.” Does the embedding of a literal death from your life push your work into the arena that Halley proposes?
RS: Yes. I actually started painting Pickle when I was 17 and she was 6 weeks old. When I moved away it was just me and her for a long time. Pickle actually taught me how to be a human being. She taught me what empathy was, responsibility, how to care, and she showed me how to love unconditionally when this was not something I experienced. Pickle had this joy for life, everything was fine and in the moment. Painting her was very often not about painting her at all but about sitting down, slowing down, observing myself and the world around me, in an immediate way. I was able to be present with feeling and not feeling. I love her so much that I experienced that love when painting her. Before she passed away, her image was more about love and care for self on some level, and the only proof of real connection, in a magical way maybe. I painted her before she died, over and over. Those were about preparing for loss and grief. The Vision abstractions are kind of about looking at all of this, trying to figure out a way to picture those things and non-things existing pictorially or physically in the world somehow.
AP: I saw a picture that you posted recently that resembled some of your paintings. Is this how you compose your paintings? I’m curious how photography fits in your work. On one hand you're taking these causal pics and on the other you are introducing postcards and images of other photographs/paintings into your work.
RS: They are fairly casual but they are deliberate. I compose a lot of paintings through photographs with perspectives that don't make sense. Sometimes those photographs end up inside another photograph. And sometimes paintings end up in there and I end up painting on top of that. There is almost always a painting hiding in a photograph somewhere. Blurry in the background, or under a sheet of paper. I love veils and layers. Sometimes I take pictures of the paintings and just look at them that way, where their context is also sort of documented. I get to really study light that way. I love looking at the shadow underneath a painting being cast by a light source and all of the colors that happen in all of that light. That is how I get to many of the bases of the Vision paintings. I record the lights in paint colors and then work on bending the light into a lens like shape or a portal. This is also how I come up with the paintings of paintings which look like a painting of a painting but it’s all completely constructed and not a straight up painting of another painting. It is a bunch of conflicting material decisions. (Sea Change or the Tricky Yows)
Usually the postcards and snapshots along with the paintings or other tiny paintings on top are an image or card I have loved for years. I’ll also include something from the studio that hung out while I made a bunch of paintings since it is a witness, even if a silent one.
Raychael Stine has shown in California, Illinois and extensively throughout Texas including her 2013 solo shows “Dig a Hole Forever” at Art Palace in Houston, TX and “Carry on Daisies” at Eugene Binder in Marfa, TX. In 2009 Stine was a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award Nominee and in 2013 she participated in the Bemis Contemporary Arts Center Residency. In 2008 Stine was Jurors Pick in New American Paintings #78, Western Exhibition. She received her MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010 and is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico.
Arthur Peña is a painter and contributing writer to Arts & Culture TX, New American Paintings and ART HAPS. He is the founder/director of experimental art space WARE:WOLF:HAUS where he will present George Quartz as the first Band in Residence. His recent solo show “slight shift, steady hand” at Dallas Contemporary closed March 9 and he is currently anticipating his upcoming solo show at This Friday or Next Friday in DUMBO, NY this May. Peña received his MFA in Painting from RISD in 2012 and currently lives and works in Dallas.