Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe

Baltic Group, 1988

The Baltic Group (all 1989) go away from the kind of involvement with the painting’s morphology and surround that had played a big role in the History and Seduction group I’d shown at John Weber’s and subsequently in Philadelphia and Cambridge, Mass., and the works on paper I’d shown at Grace Borgenicht’s, and would again in the Eisenstein group a couple of years later.  They directly address the sky and the thought that the space you are looking at is always already far away however near you get.  Until very recently I painted with bristle brushes, and thought of the field as always creamy or thick, although that could be subdued.  There is a difference between the very blue sky of the north that is only so clear because there’s wind, and the differently blue sky that comes with less wind and moisture if not outright rain.  This combination of what you can paint and the place in it of what you can’t interests me, it doesn’t have anything to do with wet or dry once it’s driving the painting.  The painting is about blueness.  When vinyl paint (Flasche) is used in these works you get a glimpse of the not-natural, otherwise they’re in the country.  They follow my village paintings in that regard.  In both, the terms of—what I make of—contemporary painting are inflected by something outside of art, get themselves made by reaching out to it in some way.  Blueness has all sorts of connotations, these works are made out of the ones very clear blue have for me.    

I think about the Baltic, its light on the one hand and its history on the other, a lot.  Its history is among other things that of the final defeat of the old Gods, and it is surprising that it took such a long time.  The ancient Prussians believed that the God to the winds was a big deal, hence Air Force.  Bréton is only one person to affirm that truth comes from the north, but were it to be true it would be a product of the Germanic and the Balto-Slavic. Wends occupied a large part of Denmark and the rest of the north as well as most of the south coast of the Baltic, and ruled the sea for quite a time.  They began to enter areas evacuated by Germanic tribes that set off to enter the Roman Empire as soon as they did.  The Romans having settled a bunch in England years before that.  Baltic Meaning, were there such a thing, would involve the limpidity of the Baltic sky and its wind, and would be expressed in a mixture of Germanic and Slavic that we don’t have, or maybe we do to an extent worth considering.  

    Other titles in the group are less obviously related to the theme, although as to Asiatic, the Lapps are part of the group of people that stretches across the top of the world, and as with Greenland and its indigenous inhabitants to the west, the Lapps remind one that Germanic Scandinavia meets Asia within itself the further north you go too.  Forget is a white painting, essentially although not literally.  It’s title has to do with covering up with a surface that also a depth.  Who’s Afraid of Yellow, Blue and Red is of course a reference to Newman, but it’s to the point that it’s nearly all blue, and could have been called some yellow that’s not in nature, two blues of which one is that of the night, and a red that has nothing clearly (no shared pigment not the same value really, with either. Barney’s painting was about daring to combine them equally, what I did was emphasize the difference between very bright yellow and very dark blue on the left side, and make its relationship to red on the right by using a second blue, preventing anything dramatic from happening between blue and red, what is there now almost greying it because the second blue is greener than the main, darker, one.