Art and Design

Chelsea Konyndyk



Back to Senior Show 2013

My work organizes the contingent objects in formal patterns. I use these ordinary
materials in a way that a painter would use paint. These materials stand in for my
painterly style, but simultaneously deny it. My work explores the space of the
wall; coming off the wall and exploring the space between the materials and the
wall itself. I control and manipulate the materials in the same way that a painter
manipulates the paint. I control the chaos. As Jessica Stockholder wrote in
Powerful Art and Power, “I value the role that art plays creating friction, agitating,
questioning, and challenging the systems we live with.” Not excluding the system
of a painting. I challenge the elevated notion of painting by deciding to deny
painting all together by using ordinary materials as paint.

Artist's Statement

My earliest paintings like most high school and beginning painting students were
intended to be descriptive realism. I chose to paint women dressed in army fatigues as
a symbol of power. It was a way to assert a womenʼs power in masculine terms.
As the curriculum pushed me to interact with the history of painting, I had to abandon
illusionistic space and acknowledge the flat surface of the canvas. The power figures
remained as residue of my earlier work, but the space was based on Picasso. The
process became like abstract expressionism; rather than being planned in advance it
was improvisational. I was looking at Picasso, Guston, Ofili, and both early and late
Pollockʼs improvisational approaches to the figure, color and space. The exploration of
flat space improvisation and an interest in color established my style in the department.
It has stayed consistent in my work, but the nature of the art object changed.

Some of this work was included in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Before this acceptance of
my work off campus in a major competitive exhibition I thought of myself as an art
education major. On my return, I thought of myself as an artist who teaches.
The ground shifted again when I got to advanced painting. We watched “Five
Obstructions”, a movie directed by two filmmakers, Lars Von Trier and Jorgen Leth. Von
Trier challenges Leth to remake his 1967 movie, but not to use his usual tactics.
Surprisingly, with every obstruction, the movie gets better. My classmates took
VonTrierʼs place and wrecked my usual processes. They limited me to a paint roller and
one brush no larger than a half inch, one color plus gray and the surface could not be
canvas. It killed me. I worked on a very intricate design on a piece of drywall for two
weeks. After a conversation with my professor I decided to cover the drywall with one
simple color, orange.

My classmates were furious. They were angry that I covered my original painting. I
loved how furious they were. It marked another turning point. The painting negated all
my previous work in the same way that Malevich looked for the zero point of painting.
At this point I became stuck.

In Mark Bradfordʼs collages chopped up posters, signs and urban debris create colorful
improvisational images with out using paint. The use of scraps from construction
projects as material negates the elevated notion of painting. Jessica Stockholder and
Katie Bell provided other examples of artists using found materials as painting. Despite
the fact that the material comes off the wall, goes up the ceiling, or goes around a
corner of the space. It still functions like painting because the viewer steps back to look
at it rather than walking around it like a sculpture. So, as I continued to work I looked to
these artists for inspiration and direction.

I choose to use house paint, extension cords and tape for line; drywall, siding and blue
tarp for shapes, and many similar materials; taken together these materials stand in for
my previously painterly style and simultaneously deny it. Critic Cate McQuaid states,
“We expect a painting to hang flat on a wall, to have a discrete rectangular surface,
usually framed. We expect a picture.” Instead, the work comes off of the wall and
explores the space between the materials and the wall itself, very similar to the work of
Katie Bell.

When I begin I never know what the final work will look like. Each piece is different. On
some I begin with small studies and then begin to recreate them at a larger scale.
Others I create drawings to start the process. These works take shape by experimenting
with the material and its placement. I collage the pieces together in a way that asserts
painting as an object.

In Powerful Art and Power, Jessica Stockholder wrote, “I value the role that art plays
creating friction, agitating, questioning and challenging the systems we live with.” Some
respond, ”thatʼs a mess.” I like the chaos. I control it. Coming full circle, my work still
deals with a woman's power.