As an artist, the materials you work with are a constant cause of concern, from issues of storage to those of immediacy and (in some cases) those of longevity. Given an infinite budget and storage space, I would without question work almost exclusively on stretched canvases. Oil works on a properly primed canvas are proven to stand the test of time, are reasonably durable, and are incredibly versatile for a painter. But any painter can attest to how easy it can be to bury ones self in their own work and canvases take up a tremendous amount of space. Hell, I worked on relatively small scale 1/2in profile mdf panels for a year and almost buried myself in those. And works on panel are even easier to damage than those on canvas, at least when it comes to surface damage.
And yet, all art gets damaged. It is a part of making art and a part of owning art, whether it is UV damage over decades, someone accidentally thrusting their arm through a painting, or the sad fate of neglected art that ends up on the proverbial Island of Misfit Toys. Or it is reclaimed by a another artist, painted over and re-contextualized.
When it comes to scale, I would prefer to operate with the ideal that a work should be in the medium and the scale that suits it best. And yet I also enjoy the somewhat romantic notion that work should always be as large as you can make it. We relate to art in terms of our on sense of size and when works of art go far beyond the human scale, they become something otherworldly and wonderful. My friend Bill Hoppe used to make paintings that were as large as his studio allowed, to the extent of having a large notch on the top of his paintings to account for the pipes that ran along his studio ceiling.
Archival concerns are a very real thing in making art, as the usage of non-archival media can result in an artwork disintegrating within the artists lifetime. From a geologic perspective, almost everything manmade is ephemeral, so what is the difference between 50 years and 250 years? An enormous one when it comes to the value of art. Admittedly, the vast majority of art created is of likely of little consequence. But true or not, one cannot earnestly create art with that devastating reality in mind. All of the shitty art is worth it for the great art that endures. The art that lasts generations becomes re-contextualized like the aforementioned abandoned art, but it also participates in an ever-enduring dialogue and that is a beautiful thing. My thoughts about art enduring through time are scattered and unfocused, so I will leave it at that for now.
Being an artist that has operated outside of the gallery system for years, shipping art all over the world, I find myself often working on a scale that accounts for the ability to ship and store paintings economically. This is somewhat regrettable at times, but I do my best to work within the limitations. And this is where the oil paper made by the centuries old paper manufacturer, Arches, factors into all of this... and I suppose I'll have to write about the paper itself in another upcoming post.