Monday, February 8, 2010

LAURA Spong: Renovations

LAURA SPONG: Renovations By Wim Roefs

The mood in Laura Spong’s paintings often reflects the things that preoccupy her. That can be a book she’s reading, music she’s listening to, art she’s looking at, people who annoy or delight her, a TV program, medical issues or the house she’s renovating. Home improvements kept her busy for long stretches in the past year.

Preparing for the days when climbing the stairs to the bedroom might delight her no more, Spong (b. 1926) added a room downstairs, among other renovations. That process wasn’t without complications, frustrations and anxieties. “It’s so draining and it has taken so much of my attention,” Spong says. “I suppose my retreat has been coming here to my studio.”

“After I had decided to call this exhibition ‘Renovations,’ I wanted to change it to ‘Discombobulated,’ which is another word for ‘state of confusion.’ But the invitation was already printed.”

Her year has been like that, discombobulated, the Columbia, S.C., resident says. “I am sure it shows in my work, though I am not always sure I can see it. I keep revising certain paintings – keep revisiting them because I am not satisfied. But, of course, I’ve done that for as long as I’ve been painting.”

So how did last year’s state of confusion work itself into her work? “Can I just say like Jasper Johns that that is too private to talk about?”

Preferably not.

“I feel like the paintings have been jittery. Some of the ones I thought I was satisfied with seemed jittery when I pulled them out again. But I don’t want to sound negative. Eleanor Byrne once said she felt she was getting somewhere when she could see what was wrong with a painting and knew how to fix it. I feel that I am there now, too, so I feel I am progressing.”

Spong’s home renovation is part of an attempt to simplify her life, she says, and that very intent might eventually translate into more simplified paintings, too. She points at the recent Bridge Of No Regrets. Unlike her intricate all-over compositions, the painting hinges on several strongly worked and defined areas that stand out against wide-open fields of negative space. “Paintings like that seem to be the ones that are kind of speaking to me right now.”

Wim Roefs, February, 2010

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