The following page is centered on Pettee Olsen’s writings, interviews, videos, and other related content.
I make paintings that are ruminations on perception and meditations on boundlessness. Through the making process, I have developed a series of visual devices — disrupted gestures, removed drips, dissolving and blurred dots, and floating bars — forms suggestive of structures becoming and falling away.
Influences include my early and intensive work in dance, music, neuropsychology, and art histories in Abstraction. Underlying the visual field of operations I create in my work, is physical movement. Fluid and sweeping at times, abrupt and disjointed at others, layer after layer of marks are floated over, and command space that has no consistent point of reference. Marks are rendered from different orientations in space and gravitational pull. My references, from the history of the luminous surface to our media-driven lives, together with my physical moves with a brush, spray paint, squeegee, water bottle, rag… and my rotating and spinning canvases on and off the wall, are not designed to create illustrations or even illusions, so much as fields of an interactive presence.
I use optically sophisticated paint that reflects light differently from different angles. Parts of the painting surface appear to color-shift. Red glints green and orange may seem to beam bluish as a viewer moves past a painting, reorients, and changes the position of their gaze. The amount of this luminous paint varies from painting to painting, depending on the other devices I use. I create surprises, a black that shimmers and pops forward, a milky white that falls back into space, in contrast to the way most dark and pale colors appear to do. From time to time, I use non-reflective paint to suggest the illusion of reflection and refraction and to develop a sense of positive ambiguity.
Other visual devices perform roles such as a redaction, or a superimposed value scale — conceptual stand-ins for contradicting and codifying thoughts. These elements play constantly changing roles from one painting to the next. A black bar set as part of a scale in one painting may become a sort of scaffolding structure in another. A redaction may be floated on the final surface of the painting to obscure what’s beneath, or it may be dropped back into illusory space as an under-layer, defining depth. Altogether, these mutable and varied elements give shape to my longtime concerns in painting — the uncertainty of perception, the imploding of absolute narratives, and the slippery nature of reality itself.
— M Pettee Olsen
(New and updated interview and video content coming soon)