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Shared Space
by Mario Naves

Real estate in New York City being what it is, artists have a hard enough time keeping a roof over their heads, let alone renting a studio in which to paint. As such, studio shares have become a commonplace. Artists of all stripes double, triple and quadruple up in order afford workspace, however out-of-the-way or modest. Economic necessity, then, demands a sacrifice of privacy. But who's to say the sacrifice is a bad thing?

Taking into account the paintings of Susan Ross and Monique Ford--sophisticated abstractionists both; one lyrical, the other gritty and both attuned to the medium's allusive capabilities--you might start to wish that more artists divvied up their studios. If there's one thing Shared Space makes clear, it's that while inspiration can come from any number of sources, sometimes the best source is putting brush to canvas not a few steps away.

Having occupied the same Greenpoint studio for several years, Ross and Ford have had ample opportunity to observe how the other has been grappling with issues peculiar to painting. Think about it: each artist has seen the other's pictures arrived at from the ground up--the first marks; in process; altered; maybe loused up; and eventually brought to fruition. Ross and Ford have been able to gauge their own efforts (and growth) in the context of a peer who is, well, unavoidable.

How consciously Ross and Ford key into the other's art is less important than the commonalities the work itself reveals and how those commonalities are made distinct by the inexorable force of personality. If both painters favor shapes, rhythms and relationships derived from nature--the landscape, say, or the figure--they tackle it in significantly particular manners. Within encrusted surfaces and heaving rhythms, Ford endows untempered emotions with muscle and bone, tension and release. Ross tends toward the quirky and ineffable: tempos flow, colors are rendered luminous, and space is intimate, enigmatic and gently calibrated.

It's easy to make generalizations attempting to limn the unmistakable dynamic between the two painters. (Here's mine: Ross is Yin to Ford's Yang, something like that.) But it's more rewarding, and to the point, to take in the pictures one at a time, together and apart, and for what they are: singular experiences given body and reason. That's the aspect of their art in which we all can share.

Mario Naves is an artist, writer and teacher who lives and works in New York City.

Shared Space: Monique Ford & Susan Ross was on view May 26 - June 18, 2011
at The Painting Center. For more information, visit www.thepaintingcenter.org

Shared Space
by Mario Naves

Essay for Shared Space: Monique Ford & Susan Ross at The Painting Center
May 26 - June 18, 2011