‘Colour as subject arches over everything like a rainbow, from cosmic rays to the minerals in the earth to what happens inside your eyes, from religious symbology to philosophical problems, from phenomena to noumena.’ – Amy Sillman
Exhibited in her 2008 solo presentation Directions – Amy Sillman, Third Person Singular at the Hirshorn Museum, Washington D. C., Amy Sillman’s B is a dance of colour. The large painting is overwhelmed and saturated with pigment, each swath a blend of different tones: forest green, whites tinted with pink and blue, a stroke of powder blue, and outlines of vibrant coral. The colours converge into one another, overlapping and unfolding; B has manifold concessions and aggressions, a swarm of energy contained within the canvas. Sillman learned colour theory from the Abstract Expressionist and Bauhaus artists, and some of these considerations are identifiable in B, which formally evokes a close-up detail of Willem de Kooning’s worked and reworked surfaces. However, as Sillman writes, she is ‘more interested in colour as an engine of ongoing change and metamorphosis than as a static theory’ (A. Sillman, ‘On Colour’, Painting Beyond Itself: The Medium in the Post-Medium Condition, Berlin, 2016, n. p.).
Sillman sees her colour palette as a ready-made of sorts, produced by manufacturing decisions outside of her control. Her chromatic choices are affected as much by the paint tube as by digital imagery, art history, and shifting contemporary circumstances and encounters. Sillman considers the act of painting to be a negotiation of forces in time: ‘You have to simultaneously diagnose the present, predict the future, and ignore the past – to both remember and forget. You have to love and hate your objects and subjects, to believe every shred of romantic and passionate mythos about painting, and at the same time cast your gimlet eye on it’ (A. Sillman, ‘On Colour’, Painting Beyond Itself: The Medium in the Post-Medium Condition, Berlin, 2016, n. p.). In B, this plays out in the fluctuating surface, and the reconciliation of line, mass, layer and space through boisterous, passionate colour.