Two of the better-known "flow painters" working in Los Angeles are Andy Moses and Suzan Woodruff. Although they employ very different styles, both artists are deeply informed by nature and physics, and seem to draw inspiration from the patterns found in global perspectives of the earth as seen from afar, and from natural phenomena observed from life. And both have evolved their own individual techniques, which emphasize actively manipulating paint on a surface and embracing the occasionally unpredictable results that Andy MosesAndy Mosesexploration offers. Indeed, one might say that for each of them, the act of painting is not simply about portraying the physical processes of nature, but in a way actually reproducing them.
Suzan Woodruff, who has her studio in Mar Vista, L.A., creates elegant abstractions that seem to capture the dynamism of natural phenomena; her work ranges widely in its implied imagery, from Turneresque sunsets, to sedate seascapes, to turbulent tornadoes. "People say it looks like weather patterns or geographic wonders," she notes. "It could be water, fire, it could be the sky. People come up with all different ideas about what the paintings look like. But it always looks like nature, one way or another." Filtered through a discerning painterly eye, her compositions feature lush liquid forms and brilliant colors, ranging from rich red-iron oxides to oceanic, ultramarine blues. "Really intense colors make me happy," she concedes, laughing. "What can I say; I’m not a beige painter."
The extraordinary effects Woodruff achieves are a testament both to her technical sophistication and to the time she has taken to evolve her unique process, which involves applying acrylic paint on Gessoboard. Indeed, it is not just her imagery that derives from natural forces, but her very technique. "After I came back from India (in 2001), I started working on the flat boards, which changed it a lot," she recalls. "The paint lays right on the surface. Because the back is bright white, the colors are very intense, the pigment shows very vividly. It moves around the surface rapidly. It opened a whole new method for me. I could use physics," she explains. "I could control the direction [of the paint] just by spinning it, flipping it, tipping it, spraying it, using gravity. It separates the heavier pigments from the light pigments. It looks like something made in nature, the same way you watch water from the ocean pull back sand with the waves, or when you look at the sky and see the clouds being pushed by wind. It’s the same thing, being pushed around by a physical force, that makes those beautiful patterns."
Each work determines its own timeline. "It can happen relatively quickly, or it can go on for 16 hours," she explains, of her labor–intensive working method. "That’s the first part of the process, moving it. Then, making it stop moving is the second part of the process: making it dry just the way I want it. They rarely turn out the way I think," she adds cheerfully.
Woodruff’s interest in natural grandeur dates back to her youth: she grew up in Phoenix, Arizona on the city’s edge, where it abruptly turned to desert. "I could be completely isolated, in these large desert spaces, but I felt entirely at home," she recalls. Today she enjoys looking at NASA space photos on the web, as well as weather patterns and satellite pictures. "I think it’s awesome; I’m just awed by nature and science."
Nature aside, Woodruff counts among her influences various seminal abstractionists, particularly Rothko, for his "use of color, the emotional and spiritual impact it has." She also admires Pollock, Frankenthaler, and Georgia O’Keefe, "for her use of feminine and sexual imagery... I think I bring a feminine viewpoint to my process," she adds. "That’s where I’m painting from; I’m painting from a very emotional and personal place."
Today, Woodruff shows with William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica, while Moses shows at Patricia Faure. The two painters had never met until after they were paired together for a "Pick of the Week" by writer Peter Frank; then in 2005, they were both included in the "Flow" show Frank curated at the Riverside Art Museum.
"The first time I saw her work I felt a kindred to it," Moses recalls. "There are definite similarities and obvious differences, but we work in parallel themes." "We were painting similar things but had never met," Woodruff seconds. "I feel like Andy and I are cosmic cousins in a way."
Feb 2008 by george melrod