Julia Schwartz

I have always liked Keats’ idea of “negative capability” and it has been a touchstone in my life and in the studio. This may come in part from being essentially self-taught, although my colleagues remind me they too are always learning on the job. Without benefit or burden of formal “technique” in painting, I am comfortable with doubt and uncertainty, a stance that fits me well because it is compatible with my nature.

Painting is dialogic, a visceral and gestural call-and-response as an image is being formed. Some paintings have taken external images and events as their source material, including floods, disappearing icebergs, California light and the turbulent landscape, while other paintings take internal states as their subject matter. After the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, I stopped painting the figure and began painting structures of bone, flesh, and ice, as though the human form were no longer adequate to hold what I felt about the state of the world. Since then, figures slip in and out of paintings at will. I’m currently working in gouache in a 3000 page book as well as oil on linen, addressing all forms of seismic disasters: what does it look like to make sense out of senselessness?

There is a philosophical idea that suggests a work of art is most effective and meaningful when it offers a window into how the artist is making sense out of her existence at the time the work is made. I find myself trying always to find and show myself in my work, grounded in my time, in my locale, in my situation. It is this process rather than the end result or final appearance that is paramount for me.