I like to work big. Maybe it’s because I’m from Texas. I focus on the act of painting, the tubes of paint, brushes, palettes, turpentine—I paint only in oil—palette knives, going to work every day, a constant obsession with imagery: It all adds up to one whole. Information comes from any quarter and from any person, place, or thing, and is interpreted through a single ever-growing, ever-changing net. I think about cave paintings, Goya, Bosch, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Burri, Pollock, Johns, Rauschenberg, Cézanne, Cubism, Realism, Surrealism, Romanticism, El Greco, birds, trees, dreams—did I mention Goya?
My relatives came to the United States from farms in Sweden, Wales, and Ireland. My father’s family were blacksmiths in Missouri way back from before what they called the “unCIVIL WAR.” Maybe that’s why I would probably rather have a hand on a plow than a finger on a computer button.
I started to paint late. I didn’t get out of Texas and move to New York until I was thirty-five. Then I spent my life in the Frick Collection, then in The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney, the Metropolitan and Guggenheim museums, and the constant hustle and bustle and art-world intrigues. I read the poetry of Rilke, Yates, Blake, and Wallace Stevens, which inspired me. Then I got lucky and one year I was able to go to all the performances at The Metropolitan Opera, though in my loft in Williamsburg I played country music on my guitar. Landscape sometimes inspires my paintings. I left New York for Carbondale, Colorado, where I can look at the mountains instead of skyscrapers and asphalt.
Today, art can be anything and everyone is an artist. Photographs, poetry, music, paint, anything from graphite to molten metal to vibrations in the air to light, can be used to produce equivalents to our consciousness. Social and political, as well as aesthetic issues, use art either to reveal or entangle information. The present is connected to the past and becomes a projection into the future, where tradition meets innovation and the world unlocks and becomes liquid and gaseous and forms mutate into new forms. From Soutine’s twisted figures, which he produced hidden from anyone's eyes, to the fanciful creations of Miró or David Smith, from the depths of Goya’s black paintings or the depression of Munch to the joie de vivre of Matisse, art reveals, excites, and enlightens. I paint in search of that enlightenment.
I paint both abstractions and figurative works. I make no distinctions, because what I am thinking of is space, light, and form. Some of my recent paintings involve a screen or net, which implies a separation between two things. That is the lie. What reveals and what is revealed is the same thing. Without the revealer there would be no revealed. There is no subject, no object, only a single truth, which encompasses everything and exists in nothing. Earlier paintings involve bowls stacked up on other bowls that fill the canvas and exceed the edges. Everyone has a different bowl and the content of each is vastly different. For me, they make pleasing images. From the most realistic landscape to total abstraction, a work of art is an analogy or allusion to something else that can only be stated indirectly.
Paul Manes, 2016