The term “shaped canvas” refers to paintings that deviate from the traditional, rectangular shape of the stretched canvas by cutting into the fabric or by stretching canvas into odd shapes to bring a sculptural component to painting. Argentine painter Lucio Fontana, founder of the artistic movement Spatialism in the late 1940s, was a practitioner of painting on manipulated canvas surfaces. He wanted to bring color and form out of the two-dimensional plane and into tangible space. “One of the things he did was take a canvas and just slit lines into it, stretch it and put a backing behind it — and that was it,” said painter Signe Stuart, whose work is on view in Continuum at William Siegal Gallery. “I thought, well, there’s another dimension to what you can do with canvas. You can cut it. You can sew it. It’s a manipulatable material.” Stuart continues in an exploratory vein to consider the canvas as a malleable surface. Rather than serving as mere ground for painting, the canvas, under Stuart’s hand, becomes a medium with three-dimensional qualities.
Line is the predominant component of Lux, a series of new paintings included in the exhibit. “The line has a slight amount of relief, which I like because it’s another dimension that catches light in a certain way,” Stuart said. “I worked very large early on in my painting history and pretty much on multiple canvases that were bolted together. I wanted to work large, but I didn’t know how to move stuff or ship it. One of my solutions was to just make a sequence of multiple canvases, and it turns out that making a sequence has a lot to do with what’s happening now.”
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