Mark Rothko wrote “I am not an abstractionist … I am not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. … I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions ― tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so on”. The work of Kristina Quinones falls squarely into this tradition of the so-called “color-field” painters – painters such as Rothko, Clifford Still, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Morris Louis, among many others. What was revolutionary about their work at the time was that it aggressively and specifically separated itself from any reference to objective context and sought, instead, to convey emotional complexity solely with the paint itself, both with color choice but also with technique – how it was applied.
When I recently met with Kristina for this interview, we danced around the question of what the work was about. When someone visits your studio, I asked her, do they want to know what the work is about or do they want to know how it was made? In a somewhat resigned manner, she said that most of the time they wanted to know only about process. As I have thought about this for a while, I realize that I asked the wrong question. The question implied that the process of making her work and the context of her work were two entirely separate things. And, in the case of Kristina’s paintings, nothing could be further from the truth.
In the continuing evolution of color field painting, paths are forged with new and innovative ways of using paint itself. The work is very much about the materiality of the medium. New paths can also be forged more subtly in context – the way that emotional states are described sub-consciously in the work. Kristina’s work breaks new ground in both of these areas.
The process itself is innovative. Acrylic mediums are poured over a wood panel and gently mixed by rocking the panel, creating the swirling effect. The movement itself is almost a dance. No brushes are ever used. Kristina describes entering an almost meditative state, but not in the classic at peace kind of way. Rather “meditation” allows whatever emotional state she is in at the moment to be translated directly into the movement of the paint and the choice of the colors. Her work consists of multiple layers. Each layer must be allowed to dry completely before another layer is applied. The layers vary in opacity – some are more transparent, some more mysterious. There are typically 10-12 layers; each layer interrupted by 3-4 days. There is a constant battle between control and uncertainty. And, each time a layer is applied the emotional state that is transcribed can be different. The range of emotions in any given work can be narrow or wide.
What would meditation look like if it was visually represented? What if the meditation did not dampen emotion, but rather created an efficient conduit? What if the journey that was described was not simply a reflection of emotional state, but also a reflection of emotional direction, not strictly a transcription, but also aspirational? Kristina’s work is a complex emotional sojourn memorialized. Process and content are inextricably interwoven.
I first met Kristina shortly after she graduated from San Francisco Art Institute, where she studied printmaking. She was already transitioning to painting. Although, even when she was printmaking, her process was non-traditional – eschewing the traditional implements of the printmaker in favor of more direct applications of ink fields. The paintings were a natural extension of those studies.
Since 2010, Kristina has been widely exhibited, with exhibitions in that year at Nieto Fine Art and Mina Dresden Gallery. I invited Kristina to be part of the inaugural “FourSquared” exhibition at Arc Gallery in 2010, where she was one of 16 artists who created 16 micro-exhibitions. In 2011, her work was featured in “Shine” at the Berkeley Art Center. She had a prestigious residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts and was in their Affliate Artist program from 2010-2012. Then, in 2012 she began working with Joan McLoughlin who has since featured her work in her 2012 exhibition: “Who’s Afraid of Color”; and exhibited her work in art fairs in San Francisco, Miami and Houston. Her second exhibition at The McLoughlin Gallery “Sugar High” will open this Friday, November 22nd in San Francisco.
To arrange a studio visit or to see additional work, please contact The McLoughlin Gallery here.