A Conversation With Artist Lisa Nankivil
Lisa Nankivil completed projects at Highpoint in the spring of 2008 and fall of 2009. Together with Master Printer Cole Rogers and Senior Printer Zac Adams-Bliss, she created Lacuna, Equinox and Streaming, three elegant prints that continue with the formal investigations of her abstract paintings. Like her paintings, they channel the modernist tradition in which form and color are said to convey the essence of lived experience. Lacuna’s delicate vertical bands compose five rows of variegated color, while Equinox is a study in horizontal stripes; both were created in 2008, with screenprinting and photolithography. Streaming, begun later that year, is larger in scale and suggests natural and manufactured systems. Vibrant stripes and compressed channels of dots, suggesting circuits, or the aerial view of a city at night, drift apart and scatter, into cerulean blue.
HP Staff Member Meg Rahn visited Nankivil’s painting studio to talk about the prints.
Meg Rahn Your paintings alternate layers of loose brushstrokes with linear bands of color. Did you attempt to replicate or evoke a similar interplay of ground and striped surface in your Highpoint prints? What makes this relationship interesting for you?
Lisa Nankivil Most stripe paintings are hard-edged. There is a clear conceptual difference between those paintings and my own work, in which gestural painting is a necessary counterpoint to the linear bands. In my prints, the organic forms and loose shapes create movement and energy. Light and dark areas compliment or run contrary to the linear elements. In some cases, the diagonals or circular gestures form the geometry that anchors the vertical compositions. Dimensional gradation and atmospheric depth play perspective against the flatness usually present in stripe paintings.
M.R. In what ways was your experience with printing inks different from your usual work with paint?
L.N. The colored printing inks mix on the paper, giving terrific variation and nuance. In painting, using a lot of color is low-risk and I push the range until it is over-the-top. Editing is easy: just scrape and paint out the errant passages. Certainly, I feel more risk doing the prints because adventurous choices with color and opacity can be stunningly bad. However, when they work, layers of transparent color create more complex hues, depth, and range. Then the challenge for the artist is to employ the necessary discipline and restraint.
M.R. The edges of your painted stripes are richly textured. I‘ve read that you use tools such as squeegees, solvents, blades, and cardboard to manipulate them. How did you go about creating similar effects in the printshop?
L.N. It was quite similar to my usual process, but on a more intimate scale. Dragging ink with various straight edges, letting copier toner pool and run, scratching blades through ink, and using old-fashioned quill pens (which limit my control) make things more interesting.
M.R. In his book And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos, art historian and novelist John Berger writes that "Home is where the vertical meets the horizontal.” This quotation has been cited in several discussions of your work. How would you describe its relation to your prints and paintings?
L.N. Berger’s quote poses questions about the varied meanings of the vertical and horizontal and about what happens when these orientations meet. To me, his phrase refers to a sense of spiritual well being: finding ground in which to prosper. Within the crosshairs of the vertical and the horizontal, there could be relations to physical, psychological, and theological constructs. This one statement is worthy of a lifetime’s examination if one were so inclined. Each direction possesses qualities such as motion, ascendance, hierarchy, equality, recumbence, and rest. With every painting and print, I form a response to the implications of these orientations. Like light and dark, they define each other. The clearest way for me to experience them fully is to stand beside the works, using my body as a reference.