Exhibition at Koplin del Rio gallery, Culver City
When: September 10th-October 14, 2011
DJ Hall: this is all about painting!
Interview by Beatrice Chassepot
The great famous Californian painter DJ Hall has had a successful long lasting career and nothing to prove to others. She could have continued to paint as she did for ever. She could have painted with her extraordinary skills other Californian type women in pools or any other composition she would have imagined to enhance a certain California’s style of life.
But the point is she is a painter and for a painter just the painting matter counts, nothing else. She is not just a person who testifies about her times. A painter never stays frozen in the comfort of his/her knowledge and skills. He/She always moves forward and, in many ways we can say the exhibition held at Koplin del Rio Gallery in Culver City marks a turning point in DJ Hall’s career.
“Lunchbox”, 2010, oil on panel, 12″ x 10″
courtesy Koplin del Rio Gallery
BAM: Isn’t it too difficult to restart to paint after such a great shining moment like your retrospective at the Palms Springs Museum in 2008?
DJ Hall: I’m usually back on the studio one or two days after the opening to get ready to a new show two years away. But this time I made a promise to myself that I was not going back to where I was. I wanted to take some time off to really review the past thirty five years of my career and allow myself think about a lot of stuff I’ve been writing down for ten years and more: things I would like to do, style I would like to explore, change of subject matter and content. And that’s what I did!
BAM: You write before you paint?
DJ Hall: Yes I write like crazy; I make lists, I make diaries and note books; many forms of writings that have to do with anything in my life. That’s how I think.
BAM: In the past, you used to have a specific elaborated painting process making real story board, shooting for hours to create several scenarios, taking sometimes about twenty pieces of information putting them together to make some arrangements with the reality.
In the very last series of paintings we see at Koplin del Rio there are more close ups and the gesture is a little bit different. Does it mean also you had a different process?
DJ Hall: Yes, considering how I was going to proceed in this new direction, the process took me about six months before I resumed painting.
For whatever drawing or painting I plan to execute, I first develop plans and I will rearrange any information in my working photographs because I want to build the best composition possible.
Before any painting I might carry around an idea in my head sometimes for many years. I have an autobiographical folder in which I had pulled about hundred about my childhood photographs and I chose thirty that I really felt strongly about.
(…) When I finally came to some solution I was very excited to start painting again. When I began I made a decision at that point that I wouldn’t show this work to anyone. I wanted to keep it secret for myself because I didn’t want to feel influenced by anybody. This was the first time I was so protective but at the same time I really wanted to see what people thought so it was hard to keep it under wraps for the year and a half while I was developing my work.
BAM: How did you start to paint?
DJ Hall: I started to paint on a small piece of panel because I wanted to see how I felt about the new imagery and I did it small because I didn’t want to invest too much time and it also was the most comfortable way to start doing something going when attempting to paint more loosely.
BAM: Can you explain more this word you just said “loosely”, I think it’s an important one for that new series
DJ Hall: Yes. I had my very first trip to Paris in 2010 and it gave me the courage to finally say I would paint with evidence of the artists’ brush-stroke. Over the years I started realizing that painterly brush-stroke was what I was looking at in Museums I loved the brush work and so I’m no longer rendering the work right now with the dry brush and smoothing-out the surface. And that trip reconfirmed everything I had been hoping to do.
In my new work, when you go close to it you can see that the details are more (I would say) abstracted because the paint and the brush strokes become more like shapes of paint nest to each other than so smoothly painted that they look like photographic details.
BAM:What kind of purpose do you want us to read underneath?
DJ Hall: In the new work the content is still my investigation of the whole idea of past and present. I explore the past in my work in terms of how it has created who I am. My work has always been about psychological and emotional influences.
BAM: Since your beginnings your personal life pushed you to paint. As you said “I escaped in drawing and painting“. The mental illness of your mother and your aunt, plus the divorce of your parents plus a separation with your beloved grandparents; everything was a kind of material for the painter. You said that in your previous work you have given your mother the image of the perfect woman she would have liked to be have been and also the perfect woman she would have liked you to be, and now, in the paintings we see in the show is it correct if I say you have given to your mother a vision of the child that you would have enjoyed being?
DJ Hall: Yes I had some struggles to deal with. … My titles are very important in my shows and in my work. In my last show the title was “full circle” (2008 at Koplin). Partly that was saying I knew I was coming to a completion and I was going to start to a new and different work. I also was making reference to several pieces in which I ?posed? as my maternal grandmother (who was such an influence and presence in my early work) and I combined these pictures with childhood photos of myself. I was now at the same age as she had been when I was a child in the pictures. This completed the circle of that autobiographical stuff.
In the new work I am age 4 to age 8 or 9. I did the first piece on panel from pictures at Disneyland when I was 4 years old. My mother is not in any of this new work. My grandmother is in one painting and I make reference to a man my mother was dating (DJ Hall shows me the diptych with military man) and this side is Christmas morning. The woman behind me is not my mother but a good friend of my parent.
This painting new works is mostly about me. The child I would loved to been.
“Make a Wish”, 2011, oil on canvas, 44″ x 108″
courtesy Koplin del Rio Gallery
BAM: Do you know other names of painters who represent themselves as children? Because I don’t know any except you
DJ Hall: Althought I don’t think he paints himself Martin Mull‘s work definitely reflects back to the fifties. And because of the way he paints and the mood that he captures in his choices of subject matter, I would say really reflects the feelings he remembers as a child. That’s my guess.
(…) You know maybe I’m just lucky that I actually have some old pictures to look at and other people don’t.
BAM: Do you have already any idea of what will be your next series?
DJ Hall: I have three or four images I would like to explore and paint large. After that I feel like I’m kind of done with the childhood slides I have.
The more I looked at painting through the years the more I have moved away from thinking it has to be realistic. I am now more interested in paint and painting. This is what I’m aspiring to.
(….) My most fun is painting outdoors, you know plein air painting. And those paintings they are loose. They are joyous. They are more in the moment and also more mysterious. That’s what I would like to explore in the studio too: Just let it be a little more mysterious.
Los Angeles, August 18th, 2011