The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2022

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FEB 2022 Issue
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It is all an Adventure

Cicely Carew, <em>Fete</em>, 2018. 38 x 50 in. Courtesy the artist.
Cicely Carew, Fete, 2018. 38 x 50 in. Courtesy the artist.

I’m drawn to the how a work is created versus the what. I am fascinated by time and its role in the process. What happens in between one decision and the next. Where does something begin and where does it end? Does it end? I like to think about how time collapses and language collapses into space. Printmaking gives me clarity and insight into the process, my process, being a process, and discerning what media best captures ideas as they arise. What I have learned about myself through my work is to embrace and employ the unstructured within the structured. The system that must be followed in order to create a print provides a framework that is the antithetical of my usual improvisational approach. This discipline and order provided insight into my proclivity for investigating time (an elusive construct). I discovered that while monotype requires a frustrating amount of preplanning, ultimately, its end product satisfies my need for immediacy and capturing the speed of thought; once it’s done, it’s done. Conversely, painting, by its very nature, is a different beast, more generous but more demanding of one’s patience in reaching a conclusion. My experiences have taught me that not one medium can answer what the work calls for. Making is reflexive by nature and the first step always leads to somewhere. I simply have to be willing to follow the thread.

Mark making is my chosen language. As the language of painting and printmaking is interchangeable, I approach printmaking monotypes specifically like a painting. Color is a compulsion. Color is a conversation. I begin and respond, asking what it needs. I'm guided by an intuitive process and allow color to open the conversation. I enjoy the process of working the plate, then pulling it through to reveal the known and unexpected. The process of letting go (in the end) grounds my approach in other media. In its relationship to painting I am applying different thought processes and methods to how I would approach printing.

I’m interested in the ways work gets complicated by different approaches to treating the surface. When painting, I'm using similar printmaking materials and applications such as a brayer to paint, employing unconventional tools, creating impressions on the surface, building layers, pulling language and patterns into other dimensions, applying rules of making a print when I am painting to give me boundaries to push up against. Printmaking also allows me to consider pressure and tension, which also informs my painting and sculpture. Even the materials and patterns I might use in printmaking show up in my painting and the third dimension of sculpture.

I am drawn to monotype because I don’t believe in revision. My practice is responsive. Considering what approach allows for the best opening sometimes means pivoting away from making a print in the moment. The beauty of printmaking is that it provides that nuanced experience of following a method to achieve a desired outcome and opening for discovery. Not knowing what could arise in the moment, not knowing all of the variables—simply not knowing—is mysterious and playful. Printmaking reminds me to stay flexible and not allow the preciousness of any material to inhibit my experimentation, but to approach everything with an embodied cognition of the process to achieve an idea: employing the technique and improvising along the way. I enjoy the choreography and physicality of making a print. I could say that applies to all of my experiences making. It is a dance, a flowing conversation—try this, work that, pause. Pulling on the wheel provides a joyful anticipation of pulling a print. Sometimes I like to envision myself as a press while painting and will decide to fold the canvas, roll over it to spread the paint, like ink, instead of using a brush or other tool, I become the tool and that makes me laugh. It's important to maintain a sense of humor and play in the studio because it keeps me out of the trap of painting from my head. Movement keeps me in my heart; that matters. There is a wisdom gained through methodologies and practice that lays the groundwork for fantastic play and an elegance is conveyed through that process, especially in allowing those less refined moments to be played up and responded to.

It is all an adventure. Printmaking has a predictive element through its methodology, but it is also unknown, pure in its intention and errors. Ultimately, printmaking is the embodiment of how I choose to approach life: celebrate the process of becoming what is.


Cicely Carew

Cicely Carew spent her formative years in Los Angeles. She earned her BFA from MassArt and her MFA from Lesley Art + Design in Cambridge. Carew has had solo exhibitions at The Commons Provincetown, Simmons University, and Northeastern University. She exhibits in group shows across the northeast including Beacon Gallery, Newport Art Museum, Hera Gallery, and ChaShaMa, New York. Carew recently created public art projects for Peloton NYC and BXP at the Prudential Center, curated by Now + There. She won the 2021 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist award for painting. Her work has been collected by Fidelity, Simmons University, and Northeastern University. In 2020, Carew was featured in the Boston Art Review, The Globe, NY Times, NPR, and WBUR. She is an educator and serves as the 2021-22 Artist in Residence at Shady Hill School. She will have a solo exhibition at the Fitchburg Art Museum next fall 2022. Carew currently resides with her son in Cambridge, MA.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2022

All Issues