DAWN CLEMENTS WITH EVE ASCHHEIM
On the occasion of her exhibition, Conditions of Desire, which will be on view from October 12 to November 12, 2007, at Pierogi Gallery, Brooklyn, Dawn Clements welcomes painter Eve Aschheim at her Greenpoint studio to talk about her life and work.
Eve Aschheim (Rail): How and when did you start working on the ever-expanding format
Dawn Clements: I was traveling in Europe in 1993, and I brought little pieces of paper to do travel drawing, so one day I was drawing a telephone in a hotel room, and it didnâ€™t fit on the page. I had wanted the cord to fit into the drawing, so I glued another piece of paper onto it. It was a very small piece that fit in the palm of my hand, but it was the first time that I really started to expand. I thought, â€śWow, there really is a reason to work on paper, because I can get as big as I want.â€ť
Rail: And when did panoramic enter into your work?
Clements: I started the panoramic work in about 2000, but, when I was in my early 20s, I did a panoramic drawing of a swimming pool on the grounds of a beautiful old estate in Brookline, Massachusetts. I would sit by the pool, a big, grand sort from the 1920s and draw. That was the first time I ever did a panoramic piece. It was only about four inches tall and four or five feet long. I carried the little roll of paper in my pocket. Also, in the late 70s, I had an idea to draw Washington Street in Boston. It starts at Jordan Marsh and Fileneâ€™s department stores, a red light district, but then it goes out of the city, through Roxbury, which was a poor black community. The road traveled under the elevated train tracks. And if you kept on walking, and it was a long walk, youâ€™d end up in Jamaica Plain at the Arnold Arboretum, Harvardâ€™s big botanical garden. I wanted to do a drawing of that walk because of the transformations. I never ended up doing it, and of course later I learned that Ed Ruscha had already done that with Sunset Boulevard. So panorama has been a long-time interest, and movies get me thinking in terms of scanning spaces and moving through space.
Rail: When did you do your first large panoramic drawing?
Clements: In 2000, when I was in residence at Middlebury College. I started with a chair. I liked the way it was drawn, but I didnâ€™t like it as a drawing. It seemed like just some dumb little thing. So I thought, if I add onto this, then maybe Iâ€™ll draw the whole wall. And then I thought, oh, this is interesting, I could do the whole room. After four months I had drawn the whole apartment.
Rail: And you donâ€™t have a single viewpoint when youâ€™re working that way; itâ€™s the mapping of space, as opposed to perspectival space. Are you interested in the Flemish painters, Jan Van Eyck and Rogier Van der Weyden, and the folds in their fabrics? This new drawing â€śUntitled (Color Kitchen)â€ť has 90 square feet of floral curtain and the paper itself looks a lot like a fabric because of the way itâ€™s hanging: the creased paper resembles an unfolded tablecloth
Clements: Someone came over and said, â€śI like the way you used collage in this piece.â€ť I said, â€śYou mean sort of collage-style.â€ť And he said, â€śNo, collage!â€ť I said, â€śBut thereâ€™s no collage in that.â€ť And he said, â€śDawn, youâ€™re crazy. You painted this?â€ť (Laughs) He thought the curtain was pasted on
Rail: Well, thereâ€™s this uncanny alignment of the subject matter, which is pattern and fabric, with surface and support, echoed in the way the drawingâ€™s made; one sees the fabric optically, but also experiences it physically through the sensation of the paperâ€™s folds
Clements: Thatâ€™s definitely true. The drawing is so bent, and there are so many creases and folds, that sometimes you donâ€™t know which are the rendered folds and which are the three-dimensional paper folds. I definitely am interested in Van Eyck and certainly in the baroque still-life painters. Very early on I was interested in vanitas painting and how still-life painting could express human presence through absence.