When discussing my art I’ve frequently made references to being unable to plan ahead to a given end. I’ve rarely consciously had a particular conception that I manage to see through to its conclusion. I’ve often used terms like meandering, recognizing, responding and salvaging to describe what I find myself doing when I am painting. Those terms seem to be more honest descriptions of how I work. I allow my process to be fluid when it needs to be. This isn’t to say I don’t have any sort of preconceived idea as to my intention. I’m constantly making intentional decisions as to what I do next. It’s just that my working process seems to be more organic and alive rather than one of leading the witness. I guess I feel like my paintings have a close kinship to poetry.
So I found it bizarrely interesting that after living through the COVID epidemic for two years without getting sick I had a life threatening illness in the summer of 2022 that affected my work in a significant way. Overnight I found myself violently ill from a very rare bacterial blood infection, seemingly out of nowhere. While in the hospital I was septic. I honestly was very afraid I would never leave. As much as I love to read and listen to music and talk with my friends, I had zero interest in any of that. The doctors, and I saw a lot of them, never figured out how I got the infection.
I had been working on a series of paintings that were segueing from an exploration of circles to one of grids. The rectangles in the grids were based on the shapes of books and the canvases were all completely covered. For the most part they were heavily painted, as I’d been accustomed to doing. Without consciously appreciating it my decisions were changing. I was still choosing what to do after all but now found myself making choices I had not foreseen. It dawned on me that the paintings I was making after my recovery were markedly different. The antibiotics I was prescribed to take were shipped to me weekly in refrigerated boxes. So I used the styrofoam squares and rectangles that the antibiotics were packaged in as the shapes for most of the grids in these paintings. I really don’t know why but my pallet became much brighter and the paintings more open. I had really never left white space in a painting before. In drawings, yes, but not paintings. Somehow getting this renewed opportunity to continue to live and paint I found a lightness I’d never had in my work. I lightened up, so to speak. I think these paintings feel less burdened. They strike me as freer, looser. There seems to me to be a fresh buoyancy and happiness to these paintings. Inadvertent, but there nevertheless.
Nate Fors, 2024