Conversation in Paint: Artists' Collaborative Statement

Phyllis Lasche and Robbin T. Milne

Two artists set out to have a conversation, in paint rather than words, not knowing how long nor where the conversation might lead.

Community, cooperation, dialog, letting go, relationship, trust, surprise, ebb and flow, risk-taking, revealing, symbiosis, covering, uncovering, recovering, history, passage of time: these were the thematic bases for an artistic collaboration in paint on sixteen wood panels.

The "conversation" began in August, 2001 and lasted three years. At first our efforts were tentative and searching, but soon became bolder and more decisive, progressing sometimes with joyful synergy, sometimes with discord, but ultimately all of the panels came to resolution and completion. The sixteen pieces as they are now are a record of that conversation. The three year process of painting and exchanging was very much a visual conversation, with problems posed, solutions offered.

Over and over, our responses to each other's "statements" revealed an unplanned etiquette: neither of us ever completely obliterated the other's marks; there was always a remnant of the previous "statement". In other words, we "listened" as well as "spoke" on the surfaces. Cooperation? Dialog? Symbiosis? We think so.

The Process

"Conversation in Paint" collaborative work, 2001-2004 sixteen 24"x24" panels, oil on wood

Two artists agreed to paint with oil media, on sixteen wooden panels, 24"x24" in size, numbered 1-16 on the backsides in order to track each panel. "Sixteen" was chosen for the number of panels because that seemed to offer enough variety to be interesting and to compare and contrast over time.

Each artist took eight of the boards to paint on in her studio while reflecting on the theme, making decisions and applying or removing paint until she felt each panel was either finished or "needed something" that the other might be better able to provide.

Every month, each artist selected four of the eight boards in her studio to exchange with the other artist. Some pieces were exchanged frequently, others not so often, but each changed hands until nothing else was added or removed by either artist. Only at that point was a panel considered finished. No verbal discussion of the work was allowed between the two artists; communication about the work was allowed only in paint on the surface of the boards.

Photographs were taken of each board at each point of exchange and shared. A private written journal of the project was kept by each artist.