Text by Michael Glover
Rose works big, on unstretched, unprimed canvas, and usually in units of six feet by six feet. “I do like big work. I like billboards. I like very early decorated churches where the paintings go from floor to ceiling and up arches and around the door. . . . I find it more exciting and it can expand.” Several canvases quite often come together as a single work at a certain point in their realization. This may be the result of a chance meeting, side by side, on floor or wall. Something clicks, and a single painting develops into a diptych or a triptych. Several works are always in the making at once. Almost all of her paintings begin as drawings—she draws all the time. (How does she stop these drawings from getting smeared all over with new paint? Easy. She keeps them inside old see-through spinach bags. Then it’s just a matter of a quick wipe-off with a piece of paper towel.) Which drawing to work with, though? And how exactly to make use of what any particular drawing might offer? She twists it and turns it about, considering and deciding over such matters. She likes “a lot of coverage, like the Italian Renaissance painters that covered every inch of the walls”—by which she seems to mean several things at once: lots of paint going from floor to ceiling; varieties of subject matter; and different kinds of brushstrokes, from pocks to blobs to blatters and blips and dabs and blabs. She often works the paint hard, driving it in strong and thick and fierce, as if she might be scrubbing a floor. Above all, the paint should not always flow smoothly, or always settle into harmonious, carefully modulated tones. She prefers contrasts and the cymbal clash of strong colors. Rose’s painted world is a jagged place, with much fierce dissonance, a bare-knuckled pugilist’s ring in which the reds and the yellows and the blacks are let loose to brawl or size each other up. How she organizes these huge spaces often causes Time to behave slightly differently, too—sometimes it goes backward and sometimes it goes forward.
Whose work is hers to be compared to? Certain qualities— from its exuberance, singularity, and direct simplicity to its strong and simple combinations of color and riddling humor— remind one of late paintings by the American artist Philip Guston, and of how, in his small studio on Maverick Road in Woodstock, New York, in the late 1960s, he broke with his past as a painter of abstraction in order to deal with the Real as he observed it, with all those stories held in suspension for so long that they were begging to be told, about shoes, light bulbs, cigarettes, and that lumpy, raucous world he inhabited in common with the rest of humanity. “It was figurative work on the edge of being vulgar, but it was always beautifully painted. He took such huge risks, and they hated him for it,” says Rose. In Guston’s view, the real enemies of art were artfulness, artiness, elegance, and the cast of mind that insisted on a high-minded separation of the artist from the subject matter of the grubby world in which he was forever doomed to live.
And so it is for Rose, who is a mistress of awkwardness and feistiness, rambunctious inelegance in her own right, and who creates her own painted world from the world that we can all see, touch, and hear.