Art Up Close: In Conversation With Tamar Zinn (Part I)

The process of stumbling around and constant change
January 12, 2021

Kathryn Markel and Tamar Zinn discuss a multi-panel contemporary abstract painting in Tamar's seventh solo show with the gallery. 


KM: This is a wonderful installation of a multi-panel work that creates one work and is probably the largest piece you’ve ever done. I’m wondering how you got to your palette and the contrast between the deeper spaces, some of which are very strong and others with very subtle light and air in them. I’m also wondering how you decided to place the darker paintings?


TM: The way I describe my process is primarily one of stumbling around. I never know where I’m going when I start, and I work on many panels of the same dimensions at the same time. When I ordered 18-20 panels of the same size, I expected I’d be doing eight or nine multi-paneled paintings. I work on many panels at the same time, and then a color sensibility starts to emerge, and it seems to coalesce. 


I start with lighter, more atmospheric panels, and I’m always shifting the sequence of the panels, rotating them. One panel started with a much higher contrast, and I was very excited by where it was going, but as I started placing it next to other panels, the contrast was shocking and out of place. 


Little by little, I realized I was very excited by doing an installation that was many layers, and the idea was that it reflected what I was looking for, that nothing is static, nothing is permanent. Conceptually I wanted to be manifesting flux, constant change – that the only constant is change. And that no single image does enough, to the extent that there is truth. 


The contrast between the more atmospheric panels and the ones that are deeper with less contrast was really about a balance between my romantic nature – very atmospheric and filled with light – and my love of some minimalistic geometric abstraction and structure. Structure has always been very important to me going back many decades in my work. 


I had no idea that this is what was going to emerge until it announced itself. And even two weeks before I said I had to stop painting, I continued to rearrange the panels. I hadn’t seen it installed until I walked into the gallery because everything was sitting on my studio floor. 


KM: It always looks better in a gallery than in a studio.


TM: The process has been similar with all the work in the show. I start with many panels that are the same dimensions, but I never know what panel will be with what.