Studio to Studio: Painters Practice Movement to Go Back to the Brush | By Julie Potter

The Threshold 2012, by Liam Everett

The Threshold 2012, by Liam Everett

What do you get when you have a choreographer teach a class full of studio painters? A few tough questions to be sure. ODC Resident Artist Scott Wells taught a movement workshop for students from the San Francisco Art Institute  (SFAI) Wednesday as part of ODC’s Dance Odyssey program, eliciting a deep comparison of studio practices.

“What about solos? Do you ever do solos?” one student asked Wells. Wells, who works primarily with an ensemble and has a trademark of risky and kinesthetically exhilarating partnering, shook his head, listening to the student continue, “We are always solo as painters.” Even considering the relationship to painting materials a type of duet, as a classmate described, the exchange is still with an inanimate object. Wells’s Parkour Deux, which the students watched prior to the workshop, came to mind with partnering not only between company members but also with set pieces of large movable mats, adjusted dynamically throughout the work.

Relationships. Partnering. The workshop was really a translation of bodies in space to systems in painting – an element that SFAI teacher Liam Everett was hoping to highlight by signing his students up for the dance class. Everett informally explains systems in painting as, for example, the paint being supported by the canvas, which is supported by an easel or wall, and then by the floor on which you are standing addressing the work. While systems of support may seem fairly stagnant in painting, Wells drove home the idea of how support systems can be and often are dynamic in dance where the body is the medium. With a practice of Contact Improvisation informing his work, Wells invited the participants to experience weight sharing through the body, the exercises demonstrating movable and unfixed supports.

Scott Wells and Dancers in Parkour Deux

Scott Wells and Dancers in Parkour Deux

Wells also guided the group through several sensing exercises with eyes closed, robbing the visual artists of their most primary antennae. In stocking feet, partners took turns guiding each other to walk around the studio exploring touch and sound along with some giggling. Then the painting practitioners and Wells conversed more directly about generation of work: Do you create from a concept or idea versus the form itself?

“Is a movement spontaneous? Improvisation is tapping into archive.” one student observed. Usually there’s a bleed. The generation is rarely pure idea or form. Also pushing spontaneity, Wells offered to the group, “Boredom is the mother of invention, right?” as he coached them to continue a single task for a duration. Finally in a discussion about process and product, another student asked the provocative question, “Does your work ever not want you anymore?” When is it ready? When is too much?

Completing the feedback loop, Everett’s class will showcase their paintings created as part of the exchange in the ODC Theater lobby concurrent with the premiere of Wells’s FATHER ON, co-created with Sheldon B. Smith, December 5 – 8.

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