Big, big battle with this painting- finished at 3.30 a.m. Elation and relief. My head is buzzing with ideas for the next paintings. I am thrilled with this way of working, finding possibilities and direction for paintings in text (Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy). In the studio, I am surrounded by drawings and maps and drawings of maps but the book is driving the paintings and constantly referred to and images are flying off the page. I am reading it in a different way as well, instead of a fluid whole I am taking fragments and collecting information, ‘Fictional Facts’, to use in the paintings. The book itself has changed physically during the process, now battered and splattered with paint.
With both paintings I have been concerned with depicting the fact of Manhattan being an island and its extreme verticality. To achieve the first, I de-cluttered the map to reveal its pure-shape. The verticality is emphasised in both by orientating Manhattan itself on the (just off) vertical, then by using long drips of paint to form the avenues. It was amazing to see the buildings and architecture of New York implied and suggested within the grid patterns of the streets.
With this new painting, I think the idea of a diptych with ‘City of Glass 1’ confused the issue- maybe I was trying too hard to do the same painting but with Manhattan on the left. Unlike that painting, I could not fix Manhattan into the flat, empty space: the drawing was not strong enough or graphic enough and I had big problem with the Bronx/East River curve.
The red stripe in this painting was introduced to smash the space and with the proportions of the twin towers, which are referred to in the novel (it was written in 1987). The stripe also suggested a window, a la Rothko, and implied a building of such great height that the whole of Manhattan could be seen below. This ties in with the story of the Tower of Babel, (the idea embedded in the novel,) being so high that a man would have to walk 3 days to escape its shadow (this image will drive the next painting in the series). Initially, the stripe was far too crude and my biggest critic, Denise, did not like it at all. So the stripe was softened and expanded into the right side of the painting. I hit upon the idea of introducing another curve, the curve of Broadway, from W103St - W108St, to mirror the East River curve. So, in effect, the right hand-side is a blown up version of an area of the left, and also an area of New York that is significant in the novel. This is my breakthrough in this painting, this repetition, this link, this dual scale. The building on the right creates balance but is also ambiguous, with the horizontals becoming cross-streets. This is the territory I’ve been exploring throughout my career, integrating the view from the air with the view on the ground. I love the duality: the visual and the context working in harmony.in the detail the small blue rectangle pulsates against the colours around. It is also the Hotel Harmony.
Denise loves the painting.