His distinctive and personal approach towards abstraction resists any facile attempt to grasp or canonize. Curator Apsara DiQuinzio places Quaytman’s approach at the junction of “Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Process art, and Constructivism — a place where considerations of line, distilled geometric forms, materiality, atmosphere, and texture all coalesce.”
Galerie Nordenhake presents a selection of paintings, conceived between 1980 and 1995, when Quaytman decided to work under a creative restrain, limiting himself to the basic form of a square canvas containing an equilateral cross. The cruciform unites and at the same time divides the picture, establishing four smaller squares within the painting’s overall square frame. Within these confines Quaytman found a structure in which he studied, in seemingly endless variations, the interplay between symmetry and asymmetry. He builds a rhythm through repetitions, shape, texture—and colour. Quaytman was a master of colour, always on the hunt for a rare pigment and always keen to experiment with new materials. He made his own acrylic paint, combining Rhoplex (a water-borne acrylic polymer) with carefully selected pigments and spent long hours working with various mediums and varnishes. He incorporated ground glass in his canvases, as in "Tema Negra" (1989) and "Scorch" (1987/88); he used iron filings converted to rust in "What If?" (1987) and "Sourceress" (1989). In order to achieve this effect, he would distribute the iron filings across the surface of the canvas and then spray them with water. Quaytman never mixed his pigments with black or white. He used them on their own, applying layers of different pigments, usually from two to four colours on top of each other.
Quaytman’s sensitivity to music and his verbal playfulness is always present in his titles. "Pirate" (1988) is a pun with the natural pigment Pyrite, a green-grey magnetic powder also called fool’s gold. "Time Square" (1987) offers a double meaning, referencing the famous Times Square in New York and on the other hand introducing a temporal awareness by emphasizing the three-dimensional aspect of his relief-like painting. By adding the letter “u” to the word “sorceress” Quaytman gives another layer to access the painting titled "Sourceress" (1989). Like magicians, painter and painting conjure new relationships between sound and meaning.
In1986, in the exhibition catalogue for his third solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake, Quaytman explained:
I am not interested in the cruciform in any symbolic way.
I am not interested in texture. It is only what the paint looks like after I make it express my ideas.
I am not interested in geometry per se, but a system of drawing is fundamental to my work.
Listen to Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht just once.