Diane Fitch

It is the essentials of painting that continue to intrigue me: the interplay between structure and meaning; the tension between surface and space/illusion/ plasticity; the ability of a paint stroke to simultaneously be a concrete material substance and signifier. (As the painter Rosemarie Beck put it, “I am now convinced that if the anguish of paradox is not somewhere felt- the paradox of a patch of paint being also a hand or an apple- we are still hungry; there is not enough food for the mind.”)

The world that comes to us through the senses is fluid, ever changing, with each moment of looking unique. No matter how staid or decisive the resulting painting appears, the act of making it is one of improvisation, of choosing among fleeting moments, relationships, and sensations, those that can be knitted together to fabricate a congruent, assembled, invented experience. My hope is to honor the particularity of objects, spaces, and people, while at the same time to make them a vital component in the abstract structure of the painting. The source of my paintings is the stuff of my daily life. The dream is, through the alchemy of the language of paint, to spin straw into something more precious.

I am perhaps more inventive in the presence of the motif, though, inspired by my Renaissance heroes, I have humbly tried sometimes to conjure a palpable world. I have an internal corrective that mumbles a bit, but eventually guides me back to solid ground when the work becomes too didactic.

I return to Titian, Giotto, Piero, Masaccio, van der Weyden, Chardin, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Corot, Vuillard, Kollwitz, and Balthus, and have great enthusiasm for numerous other painters. 

Figures and Interiors

The subject of figure in the interior continues to resonate for me, as my most potent metaphor, with the interior space implying inner life. A simple narrative element sets the painting in motion. I work from intimates, rather than using hired models, out of a need to feel empathy between person and space, and to be an involved party, not a voyeur. I never paint portraits that focus solely on an individual: I am interested in the figure in a space, in how the person occupies a room, how he or she echoes other visual rhythms, or creates a contrast to the geometry of the space. I respond to complicated spaces, painting a room looking into another room, or an interior that opens onto the outdoors. As I make the painting I create paths to navigate the two dimensional and illusionistic constructs. I am interested in the challenges presented in trying to articulate spaces that cannot be taken in from one static point of view, so that systems of measurement break down as I try to translate the perceptual experience of the three dimensional world to the limitation of a two dimensional rectangle.  I have been fortunate to live in complex cluttered spaces, and to have children, as well as other family members and friends, who have been patiently willing to be participants in my work.

Saints and Sinners

This series of paintings, based on drawings made on site in France’s gothic cathedrals, concocts a narrative of sorts from the stories of the saints and their specific sphere of influence. Borrowing gestures and configurations from Medieval and Renaissance paintings and from Gothic relief sculpture, I recast Bible stories and scenes from the lives of the saints in a contemporary space, using my children and their friends as models. My intent is to explore the changing meaning of these archetypal narratives when the action is transported to a present day setting.

School Yard Series

In using children on playgrounds as a motif, I seek the variety of gestural possibilities that the figures in Renaissance paintings afforded the artist. The religious narrative, while sometimes being an imposed restriction in terms of subject matter, permitted an imaginative array of compositional/gestural possibilities. When I work from observation my subjects’ poses are limited to those that can be held for a period of time. In an invented world, the figures can fly through the air, hang upside down, or appear twice in the same painting. The narrative meaning of the gestures in my paintings, however, differs significantly from religious paintings of 15th century Italy: to hang upside down is a game, not a form of torture and death. To fly through the air is not a miracle, but an entertaining activity. Additionally, the grid like structure of the playground equipment forms a compositional framework which I can use to anchor, echo, and counter the moves of the figures, and to make smaller internal compositions within the larger painting.

War Series

Black and hideous to me is the tragedy that gathers and I’m sick beyond cure to have lived on to see it. You and I, the ornaments of our generation, should have been spared this wreck of our belief that through the long years we had seen civilization grow and the worst become impossible…It seems to me to undo everything, everything that was ours, in the most horrible retroactive way—but I avert my face from the monstrous scene.

Henry James
letter to Rhoda Broughton
August 1914