One to Watch
With its ability to trigger nostalgia and emotion, color can expose the unstable, impressionable nature of human perception. Madison Bloch harnesses this capability of color in her incisive exploration of the relationship between perception, time, space, and memory. As cerebral as these concepts are, Madison’s paintings (and even rugs) are warm and welcoming, mainly due to the artist’s sensitivity to the power of color in mediating these relationships. The interplay between a few lines or hues can make or break an abstract painting, and Madison weaves these elements into reverberant compositions that transport the viewer to other states. To where, exactly, depends on the viewer’s own unique perception at the time of viewing.
Madison earned her BFA from The Cooper Union in New York and has exhibited her work extensively in New York and her native Florida. Read on to learn more about her process and sources of inspiration.
Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?
I’m currently working as an artist in New York City. I initially came here to get my BFA from The Cooper Union and fell in love with the fast-paced, culturally rich environment I lacked in South Florida. A majority of my current motifs and interests were conceptualized at a semester program in Napa Valley, where our curriculum focused on Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” We were instructed to meditate in the mountains alone. This experience gave me momentum in wanting to materialize the questioning of nostalgia within the individual and recall varying emotions and memories through color. Each form linearly references the last, almost like a timeline. I continue until a composition that’s both balanced and equal is formed. Recently my work has questioned horizon lines in their ability to dictate vast spaces while also being intangible. They have a very unstable relationship with color.
What does your work aim to say? What are the major themes you pursue in your work?
Through fields of varying vibrancies and hues, I want to take the viewer on a journey of recognition, recollection, and nostalgia. The world I want the viewer to enter is without material form as a guide. Instead, it proposes questions of how color can dictate emotional responses. Recently I’ve explored the opposing vastness and simplicity of the idea of a horizon line. There is something inherent to horizon lines that are eternal, reminiscent, and nostalgic, all in one minimal motion. While experiencing and existing in an almost endless possibility of color context, the horizon line is concrete in purpose. I want to explore time and space in relation to the horizon line and what emotional response viewers perceive from that.
Can you share an example of a work that demonstrates this?
In this piece, Line Depth, I explored the sky’s colors time-stamped 12 hours apart—this was 7 am and 7 pm during summer. There are meant to be multiple access points and grounding in varying “horizon lines” within the composition. I intended to emphasize depth through transparency and layering of color.
Can you walk us through your process for creating a work from beginning to end?
There is often a moment when a found color palette or object brings me back to a very specific time and place. It could be something as simple as a particular warm red undertone in a spill of coffee over my tablecloth. It’s a moment when I am no longer in the present tense. Instead, I am in the past, where I am met with an altered state of mind. I am interested in collecting the color that was able to trigger that bodily response and create an environment for them to live. Where and how the colors come together is an intuitive process. Each stroke takes up a different percentage of the canvas’s open landscape. The process is linear, where each form is reflective of the last. There is a dialogue of openness and space until each part of the canvas is filled.
While you primarily work on canvas, you also bring the same motifs that you explore in painting to your rugs! What made you interested in making rugs? And how does your approach to these compare to your approach to painting?
Rugs are very tactile and are easily recognizable as objects. In regard to connotation, rugs kind of disappear into a home and become more of a texture to experience or accent color in most cases. I wanted to play with the idea of a mundane object that’s both inviting and comforting. Your body almost knows to rest around or on a rug. I imagined a very immersive experience where viewers would lie down and enter the rugs. As a body moves around and experiences the rug’s comfort, they would have varying views of the painting and colors.
[Rugs] felt reminiscent of an installation project I made in 2016, where viewers entered a constructed room with large-scale paintings as the only walls. I asked viewers to record their emotional responses to the space on an anonymous card. I really appreciated the opportunity the rugs gave me to break the physical barrier that the previous installation had. They related to my works on canvas in a very different way. Paintings are so process-oriented—from mixing the colors to applying the paint, I’m dictating each move. Since the rugs were sustainably outsourced, I got to experience them as I would want a viewer too. A finished object to experience and enjoy. While an extension of my work in regards to experiencing color, the rugs feel so different in process from my paintings. I’m very thankful to Barbara [my mentor] for seeing the potential in a young artist and guiding me with her exceptional experience in the craft.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
Maja Ruznic is a contemporary painter exploring nostalgia and time through fluid color fields and loose, almost ghost-like figures. Her paintings are landscapes of memories and emotions highlighted by their nuanced color palettes. The way she layers and uses the materiality of color is so inspiring. She recalls distant heavy moments with what feels like an automated hand. Her work seems to flow from her mind down to her hand as fluid as her paints creating very palpable narratives. On a more physical note, Richard Serra creates a dialogue around the viewer and his work that calls attention to human scale and the essence of material space. You can almost feel your own body in relation to his work. It questions the very idea of what an object is and what it can do. Color is often not directly addressed and challenged. They both continue to make me question and explore my own art practice.
How do you hope viewers respond to your works? What do you want them to feel?
Color has so much association embedded within it. I have hopes of my pieces being given a contemplative moment without preconceived notions as to where the pieces “should” bring a viewer. I want viewers to escape into a nostalgic state where memories flutter across the canvas, and there’s an exit [from] present time. Maybe longing becomes more prevalent the deeper someone is able to enter my landscape of color. Mostly I would hope at least one question comes to mind, encased in a personal narrative unique to each viewer.
If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I think I would be involved in some sort of science-based research of fungus and mushrooms.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
A professor at school once said, “don’t think, just make,” and that has forever been in my mind, especially when I’m feeling stuck in my making process.
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