he exhibition features a suite of paintings, heavily-laden with exuberant colors and bearing traces of the many multiple stretchings and foldings that have become Rommel’s signature style. The history of each work’s complex construction is inscribed into its surface: the deep grooves and creases describe the many stages and revisions enacted by the artist. What follows is Rommel’s writing about her work this past year:
The studio has been difficult this year: I tried to be more decisive, but each painting quickly strayed from its initial plan, and ended up needing so many revisions, so much trial and error, for anything of real interest to come through. A lot of chaos erupted before I could find the important parts and see a way to the slightly simplified end. I had an original goal of presenting a newness by way of elements being quick and thin and light — but that did not work out. The paint became thick, and I had to find a way to pull life from its thickness. More than ever, each time I had to cover a first move, the loss felt devastating. The paintings eventually brought forth their own new pace, but by then the easy, early marks were long gone.
This feeling of loss is not confined to the studio. Time is speeding up: I’m hit by a lack of capacity to hold on to everyone, or to even see them more than once. Lots of optimistic connections that feel alive but have no staying power. Not having enough time, or dedication, or just wanting more. Wanting to control every outcome, wanting to edit each other out.
And yet, moments of openness float to the surface and surprise me. Fleeting moments with strangers, buffered by comforting moments with friends. The painting titles are pulled from both. And the colors too, I think. Stubbornly, they all became bright paintings, despite my plans to make them otherwise. The truth is, I’ve had a lot of fun this year. The fun, and happiness, has sneakily persisted.
I am reminded of the lesson my paintings teach me again and again: that favorable things happen because of (or despite) all the labor that sometimes feels so redundant, pointless, difficult. This is how it continues to play out for me. I wonder if I’ll ever have an idea or plan that I carry through to its conclusion. I wonder if I can pause the endless revisions, and move forward without a second thought. For now, that’s not the way it works. What works is the act of working itself, and locating the moments of luck within. -JR, March 2019