Jack Chipman | Artist Statement

To describe in a few words the spirit of one’s work can be challenging.  Not all artists are skilled writers.  In my case, I became a writer by default.  Life can be unpredictable as I learned as a young artist recruited to write reviews for a new publication called Artweek in the 1970s.  I could have declined, but instead made it my mission to draw attention to the work of interesting emerging artists of the Bay Area, where I had moved after graduation from the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.  That apprenticeship eventually led to the writing of a series of books on the subject of California ceramics, which had become a source of interest and income for me.

The San Francisco chapter, when I was dubbed “Jack the ripper,” was characterized by a process I originated of ripping primed canvas into strips, dying them individually in subtle pastel shades and attaching them to wooden or bamboo poles.  My work was perceived then as part the Process movement that included young California artists exploring new materials and painting methods.  One of those strategies was the abandoning of traditional stretcher bars.

After my return to Los Angeles in the late 1970s and after a 6-year hiatus during which I was consumed with collecting and researching California ceramics, I explored several different mediums including collage and assemblage. In the 1990s, I decided to update the “rippings” concept.  These new ones were completed paintings combining fields of color with geometric patterns that I ripped into strips and reassembled. I called this series RIP, obviously indicating the manner in which the work was produced but also riffing on the alleged demise of painting as a legitimate practice.

In my latest series called Roots, the work employs the color fields and geometric patterns of the RIP series as a starting point.  Combining the free-flow of acrylic paint (gravity doing much of the work) with hard edge geometric shapes, I continue to explore this path and realize that my influences have been many and diverse. Ultimately, the roots of this series reach all the way back to the painting experiments of my youth.

My recent paintings are the result of adaptations and refinements of earlier work.  As an exhibiting artist, I have assimilated ideas and influences over a long practice.  Naturally, what an individual artist does is shaped by what has already been done.  I admire the work of many past and present day painters and especially those that are currently working in Los Angeles.

Flow, the painterly process a group of LA artists is occupied with, balances the spontaneous with the deliberate, with the former tactic typically dominant.  In my case, the unpredictability of free-flowing paint is combined with precise geometry as I have long favored the integration of one form of paint application with another.  At best, this integration adds a sense of dynamism to the work but color remains the dominant attribute with hues ranging from the vibrant to the muted and restrained.  I rarely use pure paint colors, opting instead to “invent” new ones.  A hallmark of the flow movement is minimizing the time-honored painter’s stroke.  Much of the work is performed at a physical and emotional distance from the surface, be it canvas or paper, but the end result of “going with the flow” is often stunning.

An unexpected source of inspiration for the new work is the California ceramics that became a source of interest and income early in my career.  The complex flow of glazes and subtle color variations on the many pots I have come in contact with over the years have undeniably made an impression.