Chromatology

“To paint is to register one’s sensations of color.” – Paul Cézanne

“The word ‘blue’ holds the entire disorganized and antagonistic mass
of blues in a prim four-lettered cage.” – David Batchelor

The importance of color (chroma) is not to be underestimated. Color works as a visual stimulus producing psychological and physiological effects. Its deep cultural significance, based on centuries of learned symbolic associations, pervades every aspect of our societies. Color terminology – the very language used to describe colors – is based on culturally specific vocabularies that structure, and often limit, how we experience and describe color perception. In the history of painting color has long been an agent of expression, often compared to music in its range of chromatic tones and harmonies.

My work employs an established language of abstract painting as a conceptual exploration of meaning. Just as perception precedes language in infancy, my studio practice begins with intuitive improvisation as I establish initial layers of color and form. At a certain point I begin clarifying my intentions by establishing a compositional structure that usually, but not always, remains fairly consistent as I complete each painting. Creating a painting is labor intensive, often frustrating along the way, but very rewarding upon completion. I expect a level of coherence from my work, though I also embrace ambiguity and contradiction. The colors and forms in my paintings are intended to evoke associative references rather than images.

Though the act of looking at the paintings may trigger mental thoughts or interpretations, I use language to stimulate this process by creating titles that add additional layers of possible meaning. Sometimes the titles have whimsical or nostalgic references that stem from personal experience. Usually the titles describe some visual aspect of the work but can be read on multiple levels with quite specific cultural symbolism. 

Ultimately, I think of my painting practice as a mode of inquiry into the concept of meaning itself. What do these squares of encrusted and smeared paint signify? I go on exploring this highly personal visual language for reasons I cannot always explain. And in some strange way this unknowing is a kind of knowing.

Michael Pittari
May 2008

Chromatology Statement