Inside the Studio

Susan Washington

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

My work has always explored the idea of the purposeful journey. As a young artist I would paint far away places that I had not visited and yet hoped to escape to. As an abstract artist I am intrigued by the relationship between figure and ground, and the viewer’s journey around shapes, together with the compression and expansion of visual space. Elements that are suggestive of maps and divisions of land and sea can be seen in my recent paintings along with references to dressmaking. I worked in NYC in fashion prior to becoming a painter, and pattern pieces are in themselves, similar to maps and contain instructions as to how to successfully complete a creative quest.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 

“Be very careful and keep to the path through the woods and don’t ever stop.” My husband is fond of paraphrasing the advice given to Little Red Riding Hood, by which he means that I should stick to my creative path and not get distracted by others, nor stop evolving as an artist.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

I do have eclectic taste. I like the following musicians: Paolo Nutini, Portishead, Morcheeba, and sometimes Chopin or Tchaikovsky. Other times I am listening to The Ramones, The Clash, the Ting Tings, Swedish House Mafia or The Weeknd. I regularly listen to Soma FM, especially Groove Salad. I tend to sing loudly when it’s going good, but there is always music, even in the blue days.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

The Fire That Consumes All Before It, from Cy Twombly’s Fifty Days at Iliam series.  It is an extremely powerful and poetic work, and it brought me to tears for hours in the Cy Twombly room at Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Who are your favourite writers?

I don’t get the chance to settle down and read non-fiction, as I usually work 18 hour days in my studio. When I am waiting for paint to dry (or can’t think straight anymore), I read artist’s biographies and essays on art criticism. Most recently I am enjoying Clement Greenberg and  Harold Rosenberg’s debates on Abstract Expressionism and Pollock vs. De Kooning.