Robert Wallace




Studio Notes

Painting is a strange activity.  You do one thing, it looks like crap; you do another thing, it looks good.  Then you do something else and ruin what you had.  There's no erasing with paint; you can't go back. do another thing, hoping to make a change, to fix the mess you've made.  That's all painting is: a series of trials and errors.  Eventually you arrive somewhere that is satisfactory.


"It's simple, you just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it.  Keep doing this, and pretty soon you've got something."

- Jasper Johns


Studio Notes

A painting should look like it just happened, rather than like it was painted.  Almost as if it was found.  Something like nature.


Studio Notes

The struggle.  This is familiar territory.  A cantankerous relationship with the paintings.  It is not submission in the end, but a meeting.  We agree and the battle ends.  But, oh, the time spent arguing.


Studio Notes

Painting I suppose is something like raising a child.  You've really no idea how they'll turn out - good, bad, average.  There are moments when they seem like they might be all right, and other times you just want to ditch them.  Unlike child rearing, you can start over with a painting, you can abandon it completely, leave it for the morning rubbish collection.










Studio Notes

Often it is just a thread.  You follow it, see where it might lead.  The thread gives you hope.  This could be good.  But a thread is something delicate.  It can break.  And if you pull on it too hard the whole fabric can unravel.


Studio Notes

Tired of painting small.  I'm an action painter, big gestures/marks, the whole body goes into it.  It comes from the core, the gut, not the head or hand.  These tiny movements from the wrist and fingers.  I'm not connecting with the materials, getting inside.  It is something like small talk, chit-chat.


Studio Notes

If you keep pushing a series, eventually it's going to open up.


Studio Notes

Thinking of Paul Valéry: One does not finish a work, one abandons it.

The appearance of gesture.  The paintings grow thin.


Studio Notes

Struggling with "finished".  I've been reducing and reducing for more than a year now.  Thinking of sumi-e masters: 3, 4 strokes.  Maybe my head will never be clear enough.  Maybe it is confidence.  You have to believe in those lines when there are so few.  Maybe it is my technique.  This is not sumi-e.  Applying chess moves to a game of checkers.












1.   Girl with a camera

2.   Origin of the self

3.   Synchronicity

4.   The Upsetter

5.   Just outside of never mind

6.   The archive

7.   Less Sunny

8.   “poverty of my mind”

9.   Barely scraping by

10.  Disappear completely

11.  According to plan

12.  13:22, ¥197

13.  Sun and clouds

14.  The smell of spring

15a. This can’t continue

15b. How much longer can this go on?

16.  Come rain, come shine

17.  I live in Japan vs. I am living in Japan

18.  Salvation

19.  The green after the rain

20.  Chasing butterflies

21.  Shadows and whispers

22.  self-effacing

23.  Weeds with the flowers

24.  Shooting into the sun

25.  This is how we live

26.  Go deeper

27.  The bullets we dodge

28.  Pretending

29.  間

30.  Unsubscribing

31.  Through the rain a train whistle

32.  Comes into his own

33.  Degrees












Studio Notes

A light touch.  Or rather, a lighter touch.  Thin.  A cloud, a dirty window, just a whisper.  The long, slow journey away from heavy, from dense continues.

Sometimes, yeah.


Studio Notes

This is I-don't-know.  It is somewhere.  I could push it in several familiar directions.  I could leave it here asking questions.

Take a walk.  See if it has something to say when you return.


Studio Notes

Sometimes you just get lucky.  Ain't nothing more to it than that.  And luck cannot be replicated.


Studio Notes

And then there are the days when painting just gives you a headache.  It simply doesn't come together.  The more you try, the worse it becomes.  Painting is not trying.  As soon as you begin thinking it falls apart.  Some lessons must be re-learned.














1.   Less a shopper than a historian

2.   Losing the signal

3.   Eating the flowers

4.   Transfigure

5.   “wallpaper lives”

6.   Somebody to save me

7.   Fits and starts

8.   possessed by the idea of possession

9.   Troubadour

10.  Ask yourself

11.  Separating laundry

12.  Too often the World just makes me sad

13.  I’ve lost my voice

14.  His heart wasn’t in it

15.  “He’s just a stereotype”

16.  Alive and well

17.  An unlikely prophet

18.  “to face unafraid, the plans that we made”

19.  quietly beautiful

20.  winter morning, long shadows

21.  the slow drift

22.  Wait until spring

23.  Something is happening

24.  The last laugh

25a. What we fight for

25b. What are we fighting for?

26.  Not part of my current

27.  Paper gods

28.  a slow burn forward

29.  We’re here

30.  La joie et la lutte

31.  Up with Crickhowell!

32.  Unknown error

33.  Degrees












Studio Notes

You have to let a painting rest.  You can't keep pushing it.  Fatigue will ruin a painting, the same as it does an athlete.  Once this happens you might as well start over.  They often don't recover.

You fool!  Don't try to reproduce paintings.  You should know by know, it's impossible.


Studio Notes

A good day painting is better than anything.  Everything seems possible.

The Tamba paintings are there.


Studio Notes

Painting requires patience.  Sometimes painting isn't painting at all.  Sometimes it is just sitting quietly with a piece waiting for it to speak to you.  You have to listen because it may only be a whisper.


Studio Notes

After the long winter break.  Going back in slowly.  Trying to reconnect.  Searching for a thread to bring the past and present together.  Trying not to start over with these pieces.

I guess you can't help what comes out, what comes through.  These are Kyoto.  Kyoto is where I live, it's in me, so of course I'm going to paint it.












Studio Notes

For months, a year maybe, I've been trying to simplify, to reduce, to stop the all-over attack.  Inspired by sumi-e (black ink painting).  I'm getting closer.  It is a re-education.  Western thought: a painting takes weeks, months, years to complete.  You've one chance with sumi-e.  A painting might be finished in as little as one or two strokes.  This is a massive hurdle for a painter like myself to get there.


Studio Notes

I sometimes wonder if I'm not doing the same thing over and over.  It is however endlessly fascinating, the permutations, laying paper and paint down on a surface.  But they aren't the same, are they.  It's impossible.  Even if conceived and executed by the same person - me - they can't be the same because I am not the same.  Year to year, month to month, day to day, minute to minute I am changing, we are changing.


Studio Notes

Is any one version of a painting better than another?  So many times over the days and weeks and months it could be finished.  That moment, in that light, in that mood with your breakfast or lunch or dinner half-digested, with eight hours of sleep or 45 minutes of sleep behind your eyes, in a freezing cold or blazing hot studio it is finished.  Then you look at it again under different circumstances and it's not done.







1.    (refrain) Where is this all going?

2.    Letters of despair

3.    And then it’s finished

4.    Try to unlearn

5.    Stuck in neutral

6.    Worthwhile

7.    Spends just like a sailor

8.    Old-fashioned

9.    hiraeth

10.   Tomorrow will be better

11.   Seeking: a modicum of success

12.   Call it a day

13.   Scotch and soda

14.   The sound of rain on an umbrella

15.   One for the road

16.   Trotting out Picasso

17.   Editing the Christmas card list

18.   No one gets off easy

19.   This situation

20.   The way out

21.   Macha green and plum purple

22.   Eeyore-ing

23.   Just keep making shit

24.   The rain fell

25.   Pete Townshend’s broken guitar

26.   It’s not impossible

27a.  Disillusioned

27b.  Not what we bargained for

28.   Something like prostitution

29.   Seeing the cracks

30.   しゅうてん です

31.   They’re counting on me

32.   Open for business

33.   Degrees


All content © 2011 by Robert Wallace
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