March 31, 2017
Julian Stanczak on the Power of Red
March 31, 2017

Editor's note: This article, written by Julian Stanczak, appears in the May 2017 issue of Modern Painters magazine. Artinfo is publishing it online in advance of that issue to honor Stanczak, who passed away this week at the age of 88.

Each color has its own secrets. Red has a specific and powerful behavior and wants to be enjoyed with absolute clarity and energy. In its interaction with other colors and wavelengths, red is reluctant to change. It always insists on self-preservation. It is singular, stoic, mesmerizing. The red surface emits light, energy. Red also invites the element of time.

It is a joy to look at the flamboyance of red. It enters our memory, not with a whisper, but with a shout. Just as the unexpected sound of a brass instrument shatters and subjugates the tumult of all other sounds.

In this painting, I wanted to have a particular red with a central division. Centrality always points back to “me.” In the case of “Trespassing Light,” both sides want to escape from the central rectilinear compression, which only desires stillness.

It is difficult to control the energy of red and to mold it together with lines and shapes into an envisioned totality. To do so demands scrutiny of observation. To make my red metamorphic and accepting of other interactions and wavelengths, I added green and blue. The proportion and size of interruptions made the red more ephemeral, giving each passage different visual characteristics.

Color has to be dished out in particular measures. Formations are easy to talk about, but color behavior shifts constantly. We need shapes for measurement of actions. Colors and shapes whisper to each other—if one knows how to listen to them.

My paintings are painted in stages. Here the green and blue bars were painted first. Then I applied tape (one-sixteenth-inch), covering the portions of the blue and green fields that I wanted to preserve. These fine lines emit light and have the energy to greatly influence the fields around them. Then red was applied over the whole canvas. At this stage, everything was “blind.” I didn’t know what the painting would look like or whether it would be successful. Then I removed the tape, revealing the energy of the color interaction.

I wanted “Trespassing Light” to appear effortless. I wanted to “hear” the red shout, and I am satisfied with the outcome.

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