In the November “Large Works” exhibit (on view through December 3), the Cora Rupp Award for Best in Show went to Pine Trees, a 52ʺ x 56ʺ acrylic painting by Marina Troy. Troy is no stranger to the large format, preferring the immersive experience of creating the work — but not the challenge of transportation. She also told us about her unusual favorite painting tool, her creative process, and the origin of Pine Trees in our Q&A, below.
Does Pine Trees have any particular inspiration or significance? How would you describe the painting style and color scheme?
Marina Troy: Pine Trees had a different title when it was first produced: Dejeuner sur l’herbe. Yes, it was named as an homage to the famous Manet painting, since it reminded me of its central part, only digitized and enhanced ten times, and leading to the similar source of light in the distance. As for the painting style, I tend to describe it as uniquely my own, since I am using credit cards as a painting tool: there are somewhat nervous, spontaneous outbursts of movement, with whatever color scheme makes sense at the time. No set pattern there.
How did you start using credit cards as painting tools, and how do you use them? Is it a tool you use often?
As I like texture on my paintings, and brushes tend to “dilute” the intensity of color, I just grabbed the first thing that was handy: larger than a painter’s knife, and as flexible, credit cards (the expired ones, of course) allow me to drag the paint across the canvas, changing its intensity and shade, while preserving the individual expression of “stroke.” I dip the shorter side of a card into, often, several colors at once, and observe what will happen when it is applied on canvas. I also use it on wet paint, to thin out layers, and do some editing. I use credit cards more often than I use brushes, which come at the end, for some final “fine tuning” of a painting that I am working on.
What is different about painting in a large format — are there advantages or disadvantages to having a large canvas? Is this the sort of size you usually work in?
I can not truly talk about the difference in painting in a large format vs. small format, since all of my paintings tend to be large. The advantage is that large format envelops you while painting — you literally step into it, become a part of it; it is your only environment while being produced. It is lots of fun to live in this alternate reality, as long as it takes for the painting to be completed. There is only one disadvantage — large formats do not fit into my car, and I end up often transporting them strapped to the roof! I should either downsize, or buy a larger car.
Why do you work with acrylic? How is it important to your work?
Acrylic lends itself well to the spontaneity of my expression. It dries fast and I can put on more layers, without “muddying” the color. I view oil as an extremely serious medium, and painting large formats in oil frightens me a little, to be honest.
Is a particular technical element — color, composition, line, etc. — most important in your work?
As my canvases are often produced in one breath, with their basic composition laid out in an outburst of instinctive “stream of consciousness,” all technical elements tend to either fold spontaneously together, or not. If I am not happy with the dialogue I am having with a painting while being produced, that means we have to start all over again, without clear thought about color, composition, line, or other building blocks of painter’s trade. I view technical elements and their imposition, as an obstacle to the spontaneity of my end product.
What is your creative process like — how do you approach a new work or new idea, and when and where do you paint?
As I mentioned before, being spontaneous and open-minded when it comes to the execution of an idea is the foundation of my creative process. I approach new, white, large canvases as open doors to my subconscious world of two sources of inspiration: an imaginary museum (Malraux) and sights and sounds once experienced, i.e. the “database” of lives once lived. I am working out of studio in my home in Arlington.
Is Pine Trees part of a series? If it is, how did the series start, and how has it changed since then?
Pine Trees could be a part of a series which comes out of my strong connection with the Dalmatian (Croatia) landscape, encompassing beaches, raw and barren landscapes full of rocks, cliffs and turbulent seas. Or it could be a beginning of an independent series of quieter vistas. That “conversation” is not finished just yet.
What do you want the viewer to come away with?
As with releasing your children into the big world without being able to truly control their future paths, I am not able to control, nor would I like to, the viewer’s private conversation with my paintings. If someone finds them interesting enough and worth a moment of pause in their busy lives, worth of starting an independent communication with them, that’s all I can hope for.
Where do you see your work going next, or what are you working on now?
I would like to continue exploring many more personal imprints from my imaginary museum, views from many more beaches visited, rocks climbed and pine trees full of “singing” cicadas. I would like to open many more doors with my large canvases, doors into a world somewhat turbulent and distorted, but ultimately calm and inviting. I am presently working on possible continuation of the “Pine Trees” series.