The title of Portland-based painter and printmaker Laurie Danial's most recent exhibition at Froelick Gallery, "Control Release Control" also gets at the pith of Danial's process-based studio practice. Of this negotiation, Danial says, "I approach it from a place of not knowing where I want the work to end up. So there is a balance between intentionality and happenstance, between controlling the work to a point around formal issues but knowing when it's time to back down."
Regularly lauded by critics, Danial's oil paintings are loose and exuberantly colored compositions wherein the organic and the architectural, the strategies of graffiti and Twombly, coexist. Stone, structure, and stump make appearances, but the real visual story is in the complex blending of her juxtaposed and layered forms and often semi-transparent fields, giving the paintings a feeling of temporality, a measurement of time. Indeed, Danial will often work on a painting over a long period of time; a year is not unusual. Thus, she offers that she sees her painting as "a chronicle of my moments in time and space," or a "diary of mark making." In addition, she is not averse to visually quoting from earlier works. In making her most recent prints, Danial reused plates, layering, almost at random, images of some of the hundreds of drawings she made during the process.
Danial's work falls in with a contemporary school of abstraction. In an article for The Brooklyn Rail, Sharon Butler, editor of the website Two Coats of Paint, penned the phraseÊ"the New Casualists"Êto describeÊpainters who work intuitively, whose work resists easy formal cohesion, and who reassesses Bauhaus-based givens such as "color, composition, and balance." Danial additionally views her intuitive way of making as "somewhat subversive to the proliferation of MFA programs," and their fostering of theory-based work.
But she hasn't always been comfortable with this embrace of the unknown in her work. For a time, after Quartersaw Gallery, which had represented her throughout the '90s, closed, Danial started to question whether it was acceptable to make work that wasn't about anything. She experimented while trying to figure out where, in Portland's gallery landscape, she fit in. "After a time," Danial recalls, "I ended up saying the heck with it, and went back to the way I've always worked, and that was just approaching painting from a place of something coming from nothing." This way of working, which she calls "pure painting," is about letting meaning be created through the process of making--or not. "I know that eventually something will coalesce," Danial explains. "When it finally comes together... I call it 'cracking the code'... there are often lots of loose ends remaining, which is okay with me."
Included in the 1991 Oregon Biennial at the Portland Art Museum, Danial has had regular solo shows since the mid-'90s, and has been represented for the past half dozen years by Froelick Gallery.
Danial had a peripatetic art education, studying painting and printmaking at Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland State University, and Reed College under Michael Knudsen. But talk to her about why she is the painter she is, and Danial turns the clock back to well before college. "I've been making art all my life," she says. She suggests that Kandinsky was a big influence on her when she was very young. Danial began making art as a young child in part because, she says, "I wasn't verbal. I found my meaning through image making. And through making, meaning came to me instead of my work expressing this is what I am or the work is about."
"Laurie Danial: Control Release Control" was on view at Froelick Gallery, in Portland, OR. From October 31 -- December 17, 2011. www.froelickgallery.com