Green Memory: new.shiver
Considering the paintings of new.shiver
I am continuing to think through the relation of experience and memory. How is it that what we see, feel, taste eventually becomes a deep part of us? Most of what we experience settles below consciousness, becoming something like a flavor that infuses the whole mixture of our lives. Art works this way too: it often becomes a haze of itself, a feeling, a push or pull.
As I’ve experimented with making “memory objects” from works of art I’ve seen, I’ve come to feel that time and repetition are crucial ingredients. When I try again with the same object, or let more time pass, I see a melding of self and object, a third thing which is neither me nor the work.
I’m wondering now what it would mean to keep going, to remember a work over and over until it becomes something like the paintings of new.shiver, an Elder who has something to teach me.
Last spring I had an afternoon free and slipped into the last day of an exhibition by an artist who who works under the name new.shiver (preferring to remain otherwise anonymous). I had read an essay about the work by the poet John Yau, and my curiosity was aroused.
The show was called The Elders, and consisted of 20 small paintings, some just a few inches across. The story is that some took a decade or more to make—in part because the paint was so thick that might take years to dry before new layers could be applied.
On Instagram, new.shiver speaks poetically about their process:
The basic structure of these paintings involve impossible wait times.
There are layers of fast and exhilarating moments where deep changes and disruptive color relationships happen, then long stretches of time where they need no disruption.
This unpredictable pacing repeatedly strips the work of ephemeral intentions. Honoring, instead, a record of what occurred.
These marks accumulate, often over the course of years, the painting gathering experience.
The surface collects these irreconcilable marks until the painting arrives at some form of wisdom that I can't explain, but I know it when I see it.
It seems, from the way new.shiver speaks about them, that the Elders are those paintings who have stayed in the studio the longest. They guide younger paintings as they come into being.
The first one here is still telling the others how it's done, even from a long distance.
The studio buzzes with at least fifty wet paintings, always.
The elders preside over the others, encouraging them to step up. To widen, and to arrive at a state where they can continue to open long after they're finished.
And then there are these thin, breathy, fluid things that arrive at the means to do this - opening, receiving, shapeshifting - but in unexpected, efficient marks.
The elders carry a commitment to the truth of their experience, and stewardship of their terrain.
The paint-drawings encourage radical decisions, curiosity.
As I looked at the paintings, my first thought was that these Elders were not as thick as I had expected. Jay DeFeo and her monstrously heavy painting, The Rose had been on my mind, but that was the wrong conjuring. These paintings were almost as slow, but nowhere near as heavy. Some seemed swift and light: “breathy, fluid things.”
A few weeks later I returned to the show in memory. Memory, of course, is a tricky thing — after writing, when I compared the memory object to the works in the show, I realized I had fused at least two paintings, likely three, into one. Some of those I remembered were Elders, but at least one was still young.
Memory Object: Elders
A swathe of pale green: a springish sort of green, a leafish green with a little yellow and a modulation of brown, so it is both bright and not-bright. The swathe of green offers a feeling of joy but a modulated joy, never too far from sorrow. In memory there is a sense of forest, an up-close edge-of-forest wall of color. Sunlight and shadow shoot through it. I don’t know why this is the one I remember. It was about the size of the book on the table next to me now, Susan Howe’s The Quarry. I can imagine walking through that forest and coming across an abandoned quarry. I can imagine pacing through the undergrowth of those trees as either predator or prey. The other strokes of the brush express deeper greens and browns. There is a memory of startling pink, though it wavers in uncertainty. Memories mingle, shift, shimmer, break apart, reform. There are invisible layers in this painting as well as visible traces of time. The composition speaks to feeling as a kind of fact. There is a fusion of form, memory, imagination, and time. Time is the flower here, the leafing.
The Elders was on view at Tibor de Nagy Gallery from April 20 through May 26, 2023.
Follow new.shiver on Instagram.