Deborah Buck's most recent works on paper reveal her fluid use of ink, pastel and acrylic paint. She continues to explore the interplay of surrealism and abstraction in her work, where her long held interests in absurdity, romanticism, and the darker side of fairy tales lend a strong narrative sense to her practice.
The most recent work owes an enormous amount to my discovery of working with Japanese Sumi ink. Murky and mysterious, ink has been used since the beginning of civilization, having been created by the primordial impulse to communicate and record. It has a power and a permanence that makes one feel as though they are never quite the complete master of the ink — instead, a collaborator. The ink insists on a mindful presence; it does not suffer mistakes lightly. One must stay present and work fast. It creates a discipline in editing before the brush even hits the surface. It requires intent and it rewards are commiserate with that respect. It gives the artist creative wings
While Deborah Buck has long been an accomplished, albeit often under-recognized, artist—as a young woman she was singled out and championed by Clyfford Still, who personally supported her for a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture—she has juggled her art with the demands of being a highly successful businesswoman, as well as a patron of the arts and art institutions. Over the last several years she has renewed her devotion to painting, and now she has emerged with a striking new body of work that is very fresh and eventful. Her new paintings scramble distinctions between representation and abstraction, freely mix painting with line drawing (for some works Buck uses black sumi ink, a luscious material derived from vegetable oil soot, which has really energized her paintings and taken them in a new direction), and often, in a peculiar way, seem at once antic and very, very thoughtful; they also feel just so “alive,” so crackling with keen thought and spirit. Buck’s combinatory approach to these paintings is wonderfully idiosyncratic. Her touch can be really fine and exquisite, but also willfully unruly—all surging energy. Erasure is important and Buck builds up her paintings in multiple layers. Delicate drawn marks mesh with bold painted forms. Glitter, with all its girlish and joyful connotations, is used sparingly, but with pronounced effect. Both colorful —Buck is an adept and ardent colorist—and more muted abstract parts mix with recognizable images (among them a whimsical elephant, eyes, fruit, and birds) and other forms that just barely hint at representation. What results are protean paintings that seem like eccentric, ever-metamorphosing mini-worlds or vibrant environments.
Written by Gregory Volk