James Sundquist

James Sundquist is an abstract painter from Rhode Island. He is currently a senior student in Painting and Philosophy at Rhode Island College in Providence.

Artist Statement

This semester saw the creation of two bodies of work in my search for a language of abstraction that feels my own.

The first body of work uses the human figure as a structural element in the paintings. After last semester, I sought a means of structuring the paintings, so as to give the mark-making something to both hang onto and play off of. In this way I hoped to achieve a sort of freedom by imposing the limitations of a more codified structure and composition. The paintings began with drawings from life. In these drawings, I investigated various compositional possibilities until I caught a glimpse that particularly attracted me. This glimpse was of a not a figure in a space, but a merging of the two—when the negative spaces around the figure assert themselves as strongly as the figure. I then transposed the linear elements of the drawing to canvas. What I sought to achieve in these paintings was the same figure-ground relationship present in the drawings. Both participate actively in the composition, weaving together as one—pushing, pulling, and stretching the fabric of space and form.

The second body of work turns towards the landscape, and towards some ideas I had generated from last semester. In these paintings, I wanted to create a landscape space, albeit one that is not quite accessible. The horizontal elements act like blinds, as if one is experiencing the outside from the inside. There are glimpses of space between the bands, but the bands always assert themselves as primary. I like how the primacy of the bands, in conjunction with the vertical format of the paintings, further denies the idea of landscape. The painting, as object, presents itself as figure, as a totality. I want the paintings to play this dual role—as a figural entity in itself, but also as a vessel for space.

As my work continues, I foresee a continuation of the landscape series. The greater limitations I have imposed on myself in these paintings have presented a greater and more productive sort of freedom.