statements | writings

Julia Fish

Special Report: Abstract Art

The Journal of Art, 1991

Q: How does your painting relate to formal abstraction ?

I have never painted a purely abstract painting, but have, within my work, given attention to understanding abstraction in relation to representation. The experience of each serves to inform the other. It is the negotiation between the two languages that holds my greatest attention.

Q: Which previous abstract artists, if any, have influenced your work ?

As a student in the mid ‘70s, I was poring over books on Romanesque mural painting and gained sustenance from the requirement that the painted form adhere to the wall, physically and formally. For me, these were historical paintings that spoke a 20th-century abstract language. I am now able to understand in Giovanni Bellini a similar silence and an arrested moment, which I also find in Edward Hopper and Myron Stout – as though the image were holding its breath. And it is the visual order within these works, the seeming inevitability of the place each part holds, that links their works to the patient accumulations of Cezanne and every horizontal-vertical of Mondrian. Of equal interest are the works of 19th-century American landscape painters such as Albert Pinkham Ryder, Martin Johnson Heade, and John Kensett. While not abstract in appearance, their clarity and intensity of purpose has been instructive. Finally, Rene Magritte’s investigation of the complex relationship between image and word has offered me an opportunity to consider the function of language and definition in painting.