Seven years ago, a major shift occurred in my painting style. Up until that point, my work had been abstract and minimal, and could be easily categorized as "painting". Rejecting the flatness and the illusory quality of my previous mode, I began carving and sanding the surfaces of my panels and, in order to "activate" the undulating surface, coating them with automotive paint. This new body of monochromes forced me to address sculptural issues and allowed me to create paintings that were more object-like. However, I never considered the new work to be sculpture - to me, it was a natural progression in my ongoing quest to find new ways to make a painting. It didn't faze me that many viewers now categorized my work as being somewhere between painting and sculpture. As far as I was concerned, I was still making paintings.

The desire for another dramatic change returned six months ago. I was feeling constrained by the size and weight limitations of my sculpted paintings, and the arduous and time-consuming process was increasingly eclipsing my creativity. While still satisfied with the actual work, I felt the need for an expansion of concept. In addition, my natural instinct to create color relationships was not being well served by single color statements. It seemed that the only time I could witness the chromatic dialogue between my paintings was when they were installed together in an exhibition.

Two months of idea generation yielded the concept of a "mixer". A "mixer" would be a configuration of six panels that formed a square. There would be three small squares on the top row, two wider rectangles in the middle, and one long rectangle at the bottom. Each of the top three panels would be a different color, the middle two would be the corresponding mixes of the upper colors, and the bottom would be the combination of all the colors. Each individual panel would still be a monochrome, but the sum of the parts would produce a more active and complex color statement. The funneling effect from top to bottom would represent the process of simplification - an impulse that informs the majority of my work.

In December I began constructing panels for the Columns exhibition and by March had completed my first "mixer". The result yielded a few surprises. First, I was quite challenged by the difficulty of finding the initial three colors - the system I had envisioned led me to believe that almost any combination of colors would produce interesting results. But I quickly learned that if the hues and/or values were too disparate, the overall effect would be patchwork-like and not read as a single piece. I was also surprised by the precision required during the mixing process - focusing intensely on a single color was routine, but rarely did I have to choreograph six that would be so closely aligned. But the biggest revelation was a complete shock: I WAS MAKING PAINTINGS AGAIN! I now realized that by addressing the dimensional issues of the sculpted work, I had forfeited certain conceptual and aesthetic possibilities that only exist within the realm of painting. In the "mixers", I had rediscovered a poetic element or perhaps a narrative quality, and it felt completely natural. The next three paintings seemed to fall out of the sky - each one serving to remind me that I had just been reunited with an old and dear friend.

Bill Thompson
March 2006