Chance With Limitations: The Art of Pat Steir

Pat Steir painting

Poured, dripped, thrown. Random and yet controlled. Speaking of her work, Pat Steir says, “It’s chance with limitations. I decide the colors and make simple divisions to the canvas, and then basically the pouring of the paint paints the painting.”

If only it were so simple.

What seems random is actually based on years of careful observation. How will the colors mix optically when layered on top of each other? Will the paint seep into the weave of the canvas or float on top? What about the viscosity, or thickness of the paint – how fast will it run, where will it pool? How much light will be reflected or absorbed based on the character of the paint?

Pat Steir Waterfall painting

With knowledge accumulated during years of painting Steir can now allow a type of chaos to enter the work. She says, “Gravity becomes my collaborator. The way the thing works is always in part a surprise.”

Yes, a surprise based on an understanding of materials; of design – of line, color, balance and time. Like a master Japanese calligrapher, she prepares physically and mentally and then oh so simply, applies the paint.

Here is an interesting article/interview in ArtNews written by Hilarie M. Sheets…

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