Fran Shalom is a painter living and working in Jersey City, NJ. Shalom received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and is represented by John Davis Gallery in Hudson NY and Kathryn Markel Fine Arts in NYC. Shalom's work is included in many museum collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum and The Fogg Art Museum in Boston. She received an artist fellowship foundation grant from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and was in residence at Art Omi in Ghent, NY. Shalom is currently in residence at The MacDowell Colony.
Can you tell us about your new show at John Davis Gallery?
The exhibition is called Ambiguous Characters and includes paintings from the past two years. I am working considerably bigger than I had been and I am excited to see the work up on the gallery walls. They are all oil on wood panel.
We'd love to hear about your process when beginning a new painting.
My process is an intuitive one. It took me years to admit and accept the way I work but I have embraced it and actually love working this way now. I generally start with a few brush marks, a basic shape or gesture and then proceed to move things around, adding, subtracting, and adding color – a lot of play is involved, a lot of wiping off paint and painting over and redoing shapes. I have a good sense of when a painting is starting to head somewhere interesting and at that point, I get very engaged and just keep pushing it.
In the catalog essay for your show, John Yau mentions the influence of Zen Buddhism on your work, and how you approach painting with "beginner's mind." How has your meditation practice affected your painting?
My meditation practice has certainly influenced my art, not so much in what I paint, but rather in how I approach painting. I am much more patient and confident in beginning a painting. I can work through the not knowing and get to where the painting starts making sense and it actually becomes exciting to work on. (although I’m not saying that its not difficult!)
In your artist statement, you describe yourself as a "modernist abstract painter with a pop sensibility", and refer to the shapes in your paintings as "cartoony, bright, blobby". How do you see modernism and pop working together in your paintings?
Combining pop and modernism was natural for me. I have always been drawn to stripped down elemental forms and distinct edges. I wanted to balance these out with playfulness and humor, both through the cartoony shapes I choose and the color. I love how poppy, bright colors can activate the shapes and play with figure/ground.
Your use of color is great - sea foam greens, muddy yellows, vibrant blues. How do you arrive at the colors we see in your paintings?
My color is not planned. I might choose one color for a shape and that informs the next – it’s relational. I am not very methodical about mixing color which sometimes gets me in trouble when I have to paint over a shape or section and I can’t match it exactly – that can be exasperating!
One last question: we're interested to get your thoughts on scale as it pertains to your work.
As I mentioned earlier, I painted quite small for a long time – 12" x 12”, 18" x 24” and felt very content with working at that size. But friends and family have always wondered what my shapes would look like larger, and a couple of years ago Kathy Bradford came to my studio and she suggested I might try bigger panels. So I figured why not try and see what happens. I moved to a bigger, middle size around 30" x 36” and 36" x 36”, and loved it. Being able to scale up the forms I paint, to work with larger shapes and surface and see them almost life size is very cool. I relate to them as characters (hence the title of my show, Ambiguous Characters). Actually, they are not really very big compared to many painters work, but for now its big enough for me.
Fran Shalom's exhibition Ambiguous Characters runs September 17 - October 9th, 2016 at John Davis Gallery in Hudson New York.