RB glue, chalk, calcium carbonate, titanium white pigment and dye on linen
112 5/8 x 157 1/2 in. (286 x 400 cm).
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase with funds provided by Susan Heldt Albritton, Pilar and Jay Henry, Stacey and Nicholas McCord, Jenny and Richard Mullen, and Elizabeth Solender and Gary L. Scott, and with additional funds from Linda P. and William A. Custard and Gwen and Richard Irwin; MM.2020.08
Listen to Meadows Museum curator Dr. Amanda W. Dotseth discuss this work with the artist, Secundino Hernández:
On creating this work (1:35 minutes)
On painting as a metaphor for the body (1:35 minutes)
On provoking accidents (1:28 minutes)
On how to know when a work is finished (1:43 minutes)
Secundino Hernández (Spanish, b. 1975)
The Garage, 2019
Interview with the artist by Amanda Dotseth, curator at the Meadows Museum
On creating this work (1:35 minutes):
Dotseth: Secundino, can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
Hernández: Well, this painting is made out of pieces of canvas that I’ve stitched and I've been collecting for a long while, and the idea was to use all the materials and all the art supplies that come through the studio. So, I create a kind of structure—I draw in a structure—and then I stitch the structure in different stripes. And I create a composition that I then manipulate and work with the washing and the dyeing.
Dotseth: So how do you achieve some of this tonal variation that you see on the surface of the painting? For example, the kind of luminous, blueish areas, and the darker black areas.
Hernández: Yeah, what I do is I dye the canvas from the front and then I normally start again from the back if I want to get darker areas. I like to use the dye as a material because it’s very thin and there is no structure and [there is] no texture on these works, so I wanted to keep them very flat and very, very—like a fragile skin. So, this is really, let's say, a way to go back to the pure linen, keeping a very thin layer of painting and finding a composition that works.
On painting as a metaphor for the body (1:35 minutes):
Dotseth: I really like the metaphor you're using for the surface of the canvas as a skin.
Hernández: Yeah, well, it's a metaphor of the skin is the last layer that you see in a work, so you don’t see what is behind. I like to always refer to this because, to me, the structure we see in the inner painting, in the first layers, that is part of the process, and no one can see it anymore. So, there is a lot of things to reveal if someone would see it one day.
So, I like to refer to the skin as a last layer that you see as a spectator, but it’s also sometimes hidden…what is, what is in the work. So, yeah, I like this idea. Also, sometimes I talk about painting, about flesh and bones and skin, because the structure—in this case with the stitching—would be very, very bone-ish, like a bone.
Dotseth: The stitching of the canvas forces you to confront the process of making, I feel like, and it gives it a strong structure. But, the metaphor of painting as body and the paint layer as skin, and the support as bones gives this work kind of greater depth that I think you don't notice when you look at it initially.
On provoking accidents (1:28 minutes):
Dotseth: I love the phrase “provoking accidents.” It’s embracing processes you can't control, but admitting that you're still deliberately provoking them. So, you're still kind of the puppet master, even if you can't fully control the end result.
Hernández: Yeah, well, because that's the challenge when you want to evolve your work; you're looking for new ways and [to be] more experimental sometimes. It's important not to be afraid to change, so that's why you're embracing yourself to be pushing your process and your everyday work to unknown lands and unknown places and to new series and new works. So, to me, that actually is the relationship that I always try to have with my profession, as a painter doing art, [is] trying to open new routes and to push my method or my knowledge to another step forward.
On how to know when a work is finished (1:43 minutes):
Dotseth: One question that I get a lot when I teach with your painting is, how you know when it's finished. In other words, if you're balancing this control and accidental quality, when do you know? Do you just know? Is it a feeling or is a painting never finished?
Hernández: Well, it's difficult to say in this particular work, because as I said, you are removing the primer and then peeling and dyeing and cutting new pieces in the stitching and changing the structure, so it’s so difficult. But, I normally read the paintings as an image, of course, from the left on top to the right on the bottom. So, when my eye or my brain, I think, read that composition, and the feeling of course, and what I learned and what I wanted to learn and to, to try and to…I wouldn't say…to discover, but with this new work, then when I feel it’s done, then I stop.
But, of course, some works, they could last ages, like years, in the studio, and others probably in one week could be done, you know? So, it's difficult to say and of course, it's always difficult to stop in the right moment and decide it. But normally you feel that the work is already wasted—I mean, it’s done. So, you don’t need to continue—it’s time to start a new one.