Easy Pieces: Interview with Richard van der Aa, by Brent Hallard, Visual Discrepancies blog, September 15, 2009


Brent: Finding. You come out of a bit of a painting history; gesture; hints of constructive; a kind of record keeping; painting that pays attention to relationship more than heroics, though the mark and scale suggests that’s where you were initially coming from?

Richard: Yes, I do feel that what I do comes out of, and actually continues within, a history of painting. I trained as a painter initially during the early 80s in Christchurch, NZ and my teachers were predominantly abstract expressionists who were extolling the virtues of the New York school and the theories of Clement Greenberg (20 years after the fact.) Being young and impressionable, I came out loving that stuff and have been working my way out of there ever since. Even now, I feel that what ever I do is inflected by a way of thinking about painting which I took on board way back then. In brief it is about: The painting as evidence of process and most importantly for me, the painting as an object. When you say record keeping you are bang on. Perhaps it is more obvious in my earlier work, but I would say even now – I think of the artwork as a kind of physical residue of a physical activity that has taken place. I don’t try to hide the evidence of an artist at work – touch is important to me.

You do well to speak of it being about scale/relationship more than heroics. I had dreams of being the next Franz Kline or Motherwell or de Kooning – a big gestural guy – but soon found that I had a tendency to want to structure things more and tidy them up, to some extent. So I veered towards the Rothko and Newman side of the NY school, and with a touch of Mondrian thrown in, my work became much more about simplicity, solidity, scale and proportion than the grand gesture. I think that to this day relationship is key to everything I do. In fact that word could well summarise it all…