Artist David Salle – ‘Good Painting Has Immediate Impact’ | TateShots


My name is David Salle. We’re sitting in my studio in Fort Greene,
Brooklyn. I’ve always been a figurative painter. I was making paintings populated by people
in interior spaces when I was a kid and in a way I have been making the same painting
ever since I was 14. When I was younger I was hungry for a kind
of dialogue that centred around intention and meaning and interpretation and things
like that. Now I find as I’m older I’m just interested
in the first level reaction: yes, no, good, not good, finished, unfinished. I always start with the complete frame of
reference, which is to say the large canvas. The paintings are made of, sometimes they’re
made of a large panel with smaller panels inset into them. I’m not even sure why, but for some reason
it makes a difference that there are separate panels that are actually set into windows
cut into the painting. They’re not simply applied on top. The inset panel sometimes function as a punctuation. I don’t plan out the works in advance. I have a vocabulary of images and motifs that
I’m working with at any given time in the work and I know that I want to bring those
things into some kind of alignment but I don’t know ahead of time what exactly that alignment’s
going to be. I’m pairing the word or the phrase with
a figurative element, a very strongly painted figurative element and another element which
is, in this case, a silk screen made from a photograph I took in this context and I
think of it as joining abstraction and figuration and language, those three elements. I’m interested in seeing the body in space
in a way that we don’t normally encounter it. I’m interested in the effects of gravity
and so, you see these poses of the model turning and twisting and pulling herself up or down. I don’t even know what these people are
doing; they’re just doing some funny gestures which I thought was kind of an interesting
starting point. It was carefully choreographed. We had to lift these people up and set them
down in precisely the right place on the canvas and then, because they couldn’t get up because
they’re covered with paint, we had to then pick them up again and set them down on the
floor. So, it was a really kind of a hilarious parade
of people coming in and out of the shower and being painted and being printed. I think that this, why does this painting
work, or rather why do I think it works, rather is to create a path for your eye to take through
the painting. Then, this painting it’s your eye keeps
circulating around in a kind of figure eight then back again and then into deeper space
and then back to the surface of the canvas. I think a good painting is something which
has immediate impact and at the same time is something which rewards a longer, prolonged
viewing time and the longer you look at it the more interesting it becomes, but it can
also always go back to that starting point of just great immediacy and that’s something
that’s very satisfying. And, if it’s only one or only the other
I think it’s missing something.

Dereck Turner

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