Devening Projects invites you to the first of a new series of brief and intimate summer exhibitions featuring developing work by Chicago artists. Susanne Doremus: Cabinet I inaugurates this new project. Susanne and her son Gregory Smith were featured in Forever, the second exhibition at Devening Projects in 2007. We’re very excited to bring this renowned Chicago artist and her work back to the gallery after 11 years. The exhibition opens on July 8th with a reception for Susanne and continues until July 17th.
Drawing is seen as foundational, intimate and rooted in the most basic desire to record, demarcate and track. Drawing is also a way for the body to preserve the choreographic movements of a fully considered idea. For Susanne Doremus, those instincts are never more present than in her most recent group of paintings showcased in Cabinet I.
For decades, Susanne Doremus has imported working strategies from gestural painting, blind drawing, schematics, performance driven music and dance, and applied those moves to the way she processes and records her primary concerns. Pulling from the observed and the viscerally felt, she uses line and mark to articulate the experiences that feel most relevant and necessary. Those experiences may be as literal as the ongoing construction of the expressway seen from her studio window; or they may build from tracings of shapes, marks or lines from previous paintings; or potential my arise from a thoughtless studio accident or a spill on the canvas. The way Susanne Doremus brings it all to bare reflects how important the mapping and excavating of a conceptualized sensation is fundamental to her practice.
The mechanisms at work in the new paintings are intricately configured and assertively calibrated, but rarely are they fully predetermined. Her systems are built on an architectural scaffold of line, but there are other, more subtle gears spinning to add dimension and mystery to work. In the process of making, hand memory comes into play at every step. Letting the body—in particular the hand— lead the gesture, speaks to the trust Susanne has in her ability to delineate without preconception. When making a painting or a drawing, Susanne’s hand has been called to action so many times before that it knows where and how to go; so often much more quickly than the mind. That experience and faith is what breathes such ebullient life into this new series.
Susanne’s paintings are redolent with ghosts and apparitions. The past—the painting’s own history and its various discarded ideas—fall in and out of focus within the delicately worked surfaces of her canvasses. Erasures, redactions and cancellations might attempt to bury these mysteries deeper in the ground, but they ultimately draw the viewer closer, enticed by the desire to see and understand more clearly. The shadowy blurs and the flickering auras of form in her paintings suggest an earlier narrative, something now past but necessary to the work’s current status. How these ghosts foretell a future becomes one of the complex experiences of all of Susanne Doremus’s work.
When we think of the attributes necessary for a painting to work, we sometimes forget that failure is such an important and active layer of production. But failure—while at times a tired cliché within the world of creative practice—is a fundamental mechanism in the facture of this new work. At times it seems that everything in Susanne’s painting is a mistake; errors of judgment, slippages and trip-ups are all continually trying to be “righted.” But it’s from these wrong moves that the recognition of “rightness” occurs. It’s well known that artists rely on the mistakes of making to keep the momentum of a fully engaged practice moving forward, but rarely do we see a project built so fundamentally upon a foundation of misstep. We see it in these new paintings and it couldn’t seem more right.
When Philip Guston said: “painting is evidence,” we can understand that statement as a rumination on the residues of the hand left by the painter in the production of a work. That evidence might be revealed in how a support is stretched and prepared for painting; it’s evident in the pressure of a brush mark left in pigment; and it can be found in the making-history excavated from the various layers of surface. How form carries meaning forward through production was critical to Guston and it provided the necessary tension to the hyper-charged narratives he told through image. For Susanne Doremus, “making is meaning” is an absolute truth, but not the only result of her actions. There are also the temporal concerns of evidence that are so critical to the methodologies and deliberations in her current work. She allows the viewer to live within and through—at least to a certain extent—the timeline of the production of the work. But she is selective. What’s revealed and when those events occurred can be pealed away slowly and offered as gifts to those wise and patient enough to wait.