Joan Watts, Series Zero
In Buddhist Emptiness there is no time, no space, no becoming, no thing-ness; it is what makes all things possible; it is a zero full of possibilities, it is a void of inexhaustible contents.
- D.T. Suzuki
In this series of paintings entitled "O" my reference is to zero as a primordial symbol full of infinite potential. The void is expressed as fields of colored light emptied of forms. Presence is in absence.
The artist delights to go back to the first chaos of the world…All is without forms and void. Someone said of his landscapes that they were pictures of nothing, and very like.
- William Hazlitt 1816
regarding the paintings of J.M.W. Turner
Viewed in this way, zero is everything from which all moves and has being. "O" is circular, endless, and eternal. It has no beginning and no end. It is continuous creation. In discussing the work of Kazimir Malevich, Peter Schjeldahl has written that his paintings "…feel pregnant with creative possibilities, approaching nothingness not as an end but as a pivot for renewal." Malevich himself said, "It is from zero, in zero, that the true movement of being begins."
Regarding the elements I have used to express "O": each 44" x 22" canvas is a field of modulated color devoid of forms. The only boundary is the vertical shape of the canvas. Within this container is a seamless spaciousness where tonal gradations move on a vertical axis toward white light, the zero sum of the spectrum. The verticality of the paintings references the human body. There is a sense of ascendancy relating to a zenith or highest plane being in a position perpendicular to the horizon.
Although these paintings are quiet and meditative, they are not completely still. Shades of color appear to move upward and downward. Within the undivided field there is a subtle activity resulting from the interplay of textured ground and embedded color. The heavy weave canvas is prepared with several layers of gesso. When painted with multiple layers of oil paint - each applied and wiped away - an interaction between surface and paint occurs. The painting process reveals a surface alive. The warp and weft of the canvas weave, areas of heavier and lighter texture, gessoed brush strokes, and other anomalies move with nuances of activity.
Color dominates and is used in its pure sense for its own sake as opposed to color used as a signifier of the external world. Color is embodied in each painting, but its impact on a viewer is not and cannot be specific in meaning independent of each viewer's interaction with the painting.
Working within a serial structure with consistent elements, I am able to focus on mutable variations. Through repetition, subtlety is developed and deepened. Repetition as a method unfolds and changes in process. Although the paintings in the series have certain characteristics in common, each painting is individual and separate from the whole. There is a merging of sameness and difference.
The visual expression of "O" is derived from reductionism. The paradox of fullness emerges from stripping away complexity while imposing parameters. Series Zero is the experience of infinity arising from the finite.
-- Joan Watts