Discovery Series: Interview with Jaqueline Cedar
By Rhoni Blankenhorn for COMPANY
(January 10, 2012) Reminiscent of Arshile Gorky and Paul Klee, Jaqueline Cedar is reinvigorating figurative abstraction. Though still early in her career, she is ambitiously taking on large-scale paintings with undeniable and impressively informed abandon. Jacqueline has been featured in New American Paintings, and has participated in exhibitions on the East and West coasts. Jaqueline works out of Brooklyn, New York.
COMPANY: How would you define your work to someone who has never seen it?
Jaqueline: I make paintings of life-size people interacting amidst abstract fields of shape and color. The people in the paintings engage with each other both physically and psychologically, and their gestures and positions are echoed and amplified by their surrounding environments. Figures emerge from and recede into the spaces depicted. Some parts of the paintings cover preliminary layers of paint with solid areas of color, while other sections allow initial marks to remain visible. I use line, color, and shape to direct motion throughout the image.
COMPANY: What are you into right now? Any exhibitions or artists in particular?
Jaqueline: One exhibition that really stuck with me recently was Anke Weyer’s last show at Canada gallery. The way she constructs composition and layers paint feels totally effortless. I also have a soft spot for 60’s Hockney and Neal Jenney’s “The Bad Years.”
COMPANY: You are a teacher as well, does teaching painting make you look at your own work differently?
Jaqueline: Right now I’m teaching primarily at the Guggenheim and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Teaching, like making art, necessitates an incredibly reflective practice. I find myself thinking daily about the physical and psychological ingenuity required to make art.
COMPANY: What do you hope collectors understand about your work?
Jaqueline: Scale is an important part of the work that is challenging to translate in reproduction. The majority of my paintings are set up to allow for the viewer to feel as if he might enter the work and engage physically in the space or environment depicted.
COMPANY: So scale is something you are very concerned with. What are your thoughts on life-size versus smaller paintings?
Jaqueline: There is a physical encounter that takes place when you approach a painting that is life-size or larger. As an engaged viewer you’re not able to see the parts and the whole simultaneously and you’re forced into a dance between various points of view. I personally love this part of looking at large-scale paintings – this attempt to piece together each point of reference and still walk away from the work having experienced one total image. Smaller paintings present a more intimate or unified physical experience. They don’t demand that you enter from multiple points of view – instead just that you spend time within that space, on top of that surface, around those edges, looking closely.
COMPANY: What is the first thing you do when starting a new painting?
Jaqueline: When I’m between projects I generally spend about a month not thinking directly about painting. I read. I watch films obsessively. I pay attention to conversations I hear on the street. Usually by the time I return to the studio I have a pretty clear sense of what I’d like to make. I never know what that looks like before I enter the space and spend some time staring at a blank canvas. But once I have an image in mind, I generally start with the figures and build an environment around them. Their physical relationship is what drives the structure of the painting. I don’t usually make sketches. I work out those compositional questions on the canvas as the work gets going.
COMPANY: Why are you drawn to paint over other mediums?
Jaqueline: It’s the most romantic and the process is totally satisfying. It’s also one of the mediums I find most challenging to work with, so it poses problems and questions that consistently force me to reevaluate the way I use it. To me the process of finding new ways to enter the medium and solve a problem is the most engaging part of making work.
COMPANY: You used to work pretty equally in photography as well, what are the similarities/differences between photography and painting?
Jaqueline: I think at this point they can both be used quite similarly actually. Neither painting nor photography is any longer held to its respective responsibility in art and culture. Each practice has shed itself of the need to work in a medium-specific way, so there’s a great deal of freedom surrounding what each can accomplish.
I think if I were to re-enter photography at this point, I would approach it with a totally different framework, possibly weighing more concentration on the act of constructing psychological content with light and material, as opposed to arranging figures in space.
COMPANY: Three essential studio items?
Jaqueline: Books first - I’ve got a great Balthus catalogue that I often return to in thinking about scale and posture. Reference material second – I use a mirror every once in a while to figure out a pose. And the third would probably be lighting - big windows are key for daylight; otherwise the fluorescents can really get to you!
COMPANY: What are you working on now?
Jaqueline: Right now I’m in the process of finishing three large paintings, each about six by six feet, that deal more with line than shape or color. I’ve been thinking a lot about allowing the process of repetitive layering of multiple lines to become a more integral portion of the structure of the work.