Susan Schwalb
Medium: Drawing

Studio Location:
Reis Studios - Studio# 253
43-01 22nd Street



Artist Bio:
Susan Schwalb is one of the foremost figures in the current silverpoint revival. Born in New York City in 1944 she studied at Carnegie-Mellon University and has had over 50 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums world-wide. Her work is represented in most major public collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and the British Museum, London. Schwalb was one of only three living artists included in the historical metalpoint exhibition Drawing with Silver and Gold: From Leonardo to Jasper Johns at the National Gallery of Art, Washington which traveled to the British Museum in 2015. Her book written along with a co-author Tom Mazzullo, "Silverpoint and Metalpoint Drawing: A Complete Guide to the Medium", was published in 2019 by Routledge/Focal Press, UK. Her two-person exhibition of metalpoint paintings and drawings will open on April 29 through June 1, 2019 at Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London.

Artist Statement:
My primary medium for over 40 years has been the Renaissance technique of silverpoint and metalpoint drawing. The works on paper juxtapose a wide variety of metals (silver, gold, brass, copper, platinum, pewter, bronze, and aluminum) to obtain soft shifts in tone and color reminiscent of the transparency of watercolor. Horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines evoke an atmosphere of serenity, and the shimmer of light on the surface, created by the metals, is quite unlike any of the usual effects. My work is abstract, and my handling of the medium has become increasingly bold.

Often a shimmering luminosity creates what appears to be a 3-dimensional undulating surface. I have been working within a square format almost exclusively since 1997. An even grid of narrow horizontal or diagonal lines forms the basic structure and serves as a spatial context for irregular events on the surface.

By contrast, the paintings focus on color and the silverpoint drawing becomes more of an element of structure; in these works on wood panels, drawing and painting are fused. I have applied several layers of paint, using different colors, after which I drew with the metalpoint. Then I erased part of the surface with sandpaper to expose the paint underneath. Often, I add additional paint and drawing to intensify the layered effect. The paintings seem to float on the wall, and an illumination begins to emerge from somewhere in the interior, at times creating an aura of reflected light, at times appearing to evoke memories or afterimages.

Many of my drawings have musical titles, which evolved intuitively. It is not only because I live with a composer and love music, but also because there is a parallel in the fact that music is abstract like my work. My paintings and drawings are always done in series and each work is generally inspired by the piece or pieces created before it. Numerous drawings and paintings used the title of Polyphony, and my new series, entitled Harmonizations, is a simplified version of those works. Harmonizations is made up of 36 squares with one left blank as a metaphor for a new presence or for a mourning of a loss.

Diagonal lines divide the picture plane in the series entitled Intermezzo as many different metalpoints are combined with metallic wool pads and graphite; some of these works have a three-dimensional quality as surface events are continued on the sides of the panel.

All the series are a testimony of how the abstract and straight line can create movement and a visual sound, simply through a variety of compositions. What I want the viewer to do when standing in front of my work is to notice all the subtle differences on the surface and to experience the effect of an abstract universe composed of lines and reflections of light.

All images and text copyright Susan Schwalb