On the occasion of the exhibition Page Turner, currently showing at Perrotin in Paris, Giulia Colletti, Editor of New Media Special Projects at CURA. speaks with the artist about her latest show.
Giulia Colletti: You once stated that you paint mostly women because this is the experience you feel best equipped to discuss. How do you deal with the female figure in Western art history, as you veer between references such as Analytic Cubism, Italian Renaissance or Bay Area Figurative Movement?
Danielle Orchard: Various styles have been used throughout the history of painting to explore the female form. I’m interested in how these styles connect formally, and how they might reveal my own interior experiences as a woman. I recognize myself in paintings that span hundreds of years, and because I physically inhabit forms that have been deconstructed, rearranged, and otherwise manipulated by mostly male artists for their own aesthetic purposes, I am able to bring a different vantage, one that allows me to complicate and modernize familiar images.
GC: You describe your process as embracing room for chance and mishaps, with an emphasis on the tactile and sculptural quality of oil paint. Can you expand on this?
DA: Because oil paint is so incredibly flexible, artists can ask it to perform in ways that suit their tastes and personalities; my approach is to embrace the medium’s messy, unpredictable properties. By pouring, scraping, and removing paint freely, particularly in the early stages of a painting, I can respond to the material imaginatively, in ways that would have been difficult to premeditate. Because a painting's narrative is guided largely by these accidents in material, I’m free to smooth out or rough up certain areas, allowing the paint to fight for primacy over the image.
GC: The monumentality of the paintings in your latest body of work bring forward an intimacy with the viewer, through scale and a sensation of voyeurism. Can you tell us more?
DA: These new paintings have more space for the figure to approach life-size, a shift in scale that might encourage a viewer to feel included in the narrative. Voyeurism here is intentional, particularly in the use of windows, and the choice of human subjects who are seemingly unaware of the viewer’s presence. I, however, like to think of these women as being absolutely conscious, but also indifferent, to their being watched. On a formal level, I feel a certain intimacy with these larger surfaces because I scrutinize them so closely, so much so that I often lose track of the larger image while working. My nose at times even touches the canvas. I wonder if that care and attention to material might be coming through for the viewer.
GC: It seems your subjects feed not only on pictorial references but also on cinematographic allusions. How do you use visual puns and wordplay in your practice?
DA: Because I pull imagery from memory and imagination, I often land on the most immediate and generic symbols for things; a phone is a rotary phone, a flower is a tulip, etc. When these familiar shapes become too tedious, I’ll incorporate different objects that relate to the painting’s subject or title. For instance, in Cheating at Solitaire, the figure is drinking a can of Lone Star beer, because she’s the lone star in her own self-defeating drama. A play on words is sometimes a catalyst for an entire painting, like in Red Studio Apartment, a riff on the Matisse masterwork. Picasso’s use of “jou” in “journal” is also hugely influential for me. I’ve picked up his language game in several paintings, including Night Studio, which features a squeezed tube of Williamsburg paint, where only the word “will” is visible.
A conversation with
September 03 – October 08, 2022