Raised in the Midwest in a multilingual family speaking English, Swedish, and German, Linnea Gabriella Spransy received her MFA at Yale University School of Art, and now lives and works in Los Angeles. Her lush, densely layered, abstract paintings seem to hint at organic forms; their intricate ribboned gyres and swirls recall a plethora of art memories that course from the surface design of Asian ceramics to the decorative flourishes of Gustav Klimt. Yet, they are embodied by the obsession with the machine that has motivated artists such as Marcel Duchamp and contemporary creators of anime transformer robots. Spransy, who is currently exhibiting a solo show of recent work at Hausmann Millworks, spoke about her own delight in mechanics with the Current last week from her home in California.
Your paintings contain layers of very complex patterns. Where do the shapes come from?
I use what I call "basic modules," which are almost like letter forms: really simple shapes that are flexible enough to build on top of each other, but recognizable enough to be discrete units. I'm the one who delineates the rules and programs that I follow, but they are built so incrementally, that it kind of takes on a life of its own. … It's a lot of fun because it becomes a way of generating surprises for myself. I sort of problem-solve myself out of that whole kind of intuitional, or emotive, kind of art-making that is not particularly interesting to me — it's a quagmire, anyway. I make work differently than that.
Is there an aspect of chance in the work?
There are quite a few moments when I'm not sure if we are going to have something to look at in the end. There is a lot of risk.
You are using rules and programs to make decisions, but there seems to be something biologic about the way the pieces unfold.
The general principle is taking cues from how life behaves in the natural world. What it is attempting to do is occupy all the negative space, over, and over. … What I tend to think is that numbers of small units become complex, like ants or schools of fish. Simply stated, that is the whole project.
The rhythms in your composition are so lyrical…
There is a lot of musicality in my work. I am one of the few visual artists in my family — they are mostly musicians, architects, and engineers. ... When you layer enough scores and instruments on top of each other, there is this appearance of something really lush. The combination of movement and layering can completely sweep you away and sound entirely other. But when you break it down, there is every sort of logic in the world behind it.
The thing I love about music composition is that there are so many structures to keep in mind — scales, harmonies, and the like, that one can become thoroughly distracted from one's creative intent. And when a new musical work appears, it's sort of like: "You've got to be kidding, where did that come from?"
Yes, it's this miraculous sort of hoodwink that occurs. I don't know, but I think we are conditioned, prone to it. Experience is something transporting the miraculous through simplicity, but we don't realize that it is simple. I would say that that is my tactic, something that I have been mesmerized by.
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