Artist Statement: “Stack”
“You remember much more than you may think you do, in ways you haven't considered.”
- Twyla Tharp
Finding balance in aesthetics is a precarious task, and every artist takes a different approach. Because balance is a preference, it is often impossible to describe or define, with the impression unique to every individual. While preparing for design week this year, several questions kept poking me awake during the night.
“Is it possible to define a set of rules for balance that is universally acceptable?”
“How can balance be achieved? Is it even achievable because of its subjectivity?”
“Is it more fruitful to investigate minute discoveries of unbalanced combinations while inside my studio, since the world puts so much emphasis on that which is balanced—whether it be diet, lifestyle, or art?”
In considering these questions, I next thought of that rare, universal moment that happens while looking at great design or art, the one that sends an elemental shiver of understanding through the viewer. A flash inside the gut of ‘yes—this, this! This is good work.’ Does that sliver of understanding and pleasure translate into an achieved measure of universal balance?
For Flat Vernacular’s suite of three “Stack” wall coverings, I questioned the relationship between color and composition, and composition and gesture—to answer those pesky nighttime questions. What ways do colors balance the other elements in a piece, if at all? Can color that is off-balance be pleasing to the eye? If the color is balanced, but the composition unbalanced, does that add to or detract from the final piece itself? And how does the balance or off-balance gesture or mark making add or detract from the final product?
I created the original “Stack” pattern in early 2017, hoping that a new kind of accessible pattern, produced inexpensively, was an easy way for more people to have artful wallpaper in their homes. “Stack” seemed like a good design to start with—balanced, simple, geometric, and perhaps more universally appealing than some of FV’s other designs (we still stand by the universality of Capybaras, though). However, when examining the difficulties of mass production—namely, expensive and burdensome logistics and the lack of control over our original artistic vision—the idea seemed to fade quickly. Ultimately, I decided that to mass-produce meant that FV would become irrevocably unbalanced at this point as a design studio, and thus pursued the (rather opposite) art of hand-painting the design instead. It did not feel ready as it was, and there was more that I needed to explore within its simple forms.
“Stack” consists of three separate pieces for Colony. The scale is large in each because size exploration is fascinating when creating a two-dimensional work. It says something when you can play with unexpected scale inside a space, requiring the audience or client to decide for themselves how to balance my scale within their own walls. The final phase—placing the design in the home, and grappling with detailed issues of balance and scale in a site-specific context—is rewarding for both artist and client, as it requires active participation and dialogue between the client and artist.
The colors used in “Stack (A)” and “Stack (C)” are ones that I prefer the most– especially the marigold-bordering-on-chartreuse. I decided those colors would be perceived as more unbalanced, though, which is why “Stack (B)” exists. To really examine the idea of balance requires less emphasis on color to describe each piece. However, a restrained use of color brings other new questions about balance into focus—gesture is suddenly of paramount consequence, if balance is to be achieved through minimalistic color. Without a striking use of color to offset gesture, the detail of brushwork and materiality becomes that much more noticeable.
Simple, recognizable forms are a key that unlocks balance. The forms in each piece are reliant on each other for melodic composition and call into question the idea of physical balance itself. If these forms were three-dimensional, there is no way they could stack on top of one another. The wallcoverings themselves are made to be hung side by side with no match. There is no pattern repeat to follow. It is up to the viewer to decide how to pace and place each paper roll of forms, although FV will happily give input on which way we think it looks most balanced. Or unbalanced, if that is what one hopes to achieve.
After creating these pieces, I determined that there is something potent the purposefully unbalanced– it makes the viewer look twice. It is a conscious decision to deny the ever-present call to achieve harmony through balance. Is it possible to live with the discomfort of feeling lopsided? Please talk to me about the ways in which you discover balance, or revel in that which is unbalanced. I wonder if you have the answers.
Payton Turner / Flat Vernacular