Lisa Pressman: 'Passing Through' at Causey Contemporary

Passing Through 1, 2015, Oil on panel, 12"x12"

When a collector recently asked Lisa Pressman how much time she had spent making a recent painting she answered directly: "About thirty years." It's an answer that likely came across as a bit flip at first, but considering the depth of experience that goes into her work, Pressman's response was actually both forthright and graceful. To forge the searching, varied and surprising images that she makes, Pressman relies heavily on intuition: a faculty that has taken her many years to trust and talk about. "For many years I used to be embarrassed to talk about intuition," she reflects, "but as time goes on I realize it is my strength."

Lisa Pressman

Pressman is process-oriented and each image represents a kind of gradual accretion of ideas and methods that wouldn't be possible without the broad foundation of caprices and ruminations that preceded it. Her work, which is abstract but still very much inspired by the process of seeing, has a sense of visual "rightness" that only intuition can validate. When she teaches, Pressman often tells her students to stare at something and then close their eyes as they draw it. Why? Because she feels that portraying the essence of things--filtered and re-constituted by the myriad subtleties of consciousness--is better than drawing from life.

John Seed Interviews Lisa Pressman

Passing Through 2, 2015, Oil on panel, 12"x12"

Lisa, tell me about the theme of your show: "Passing Through."

"Passing Through" reflects both my own travels and the passing away of my mother in September of 2014, just before her 100th birthday. The last few days of her life she had visions of trains, boats and other symbols that referred to traveling. Ironically, In my own travels, I have been using the camera as a sketchbook and many of the photos are related to trains, boats, windows and reflections. So "Passing Through" is about both physical journeys as well as a metaphysical passage.

A source photo for Lisa Pressman's "Passing Through" series

Off Somewhere, 2015, Oil on panel, 12"x12"

Can you say a bit about how your mother Adele was important to your development as an artist? 

Both my parents played an important role in my development. My father owned a lumberyard when I was growing up so I have many memories of walking through the aisles of stuff: screws, nails, washers, etc. Watching the house paint being mixed and looking at all the colors of the paint chips was a thrill. The smell of wood and sawdust is very familiar. As for my mother, she was an actress, an artist and an antique dealer who fostered my interest in art by taking me to museums, supporting my decision to study art and always believing in me.

Point of Departure, 2015, Oil on panel, 18"x18"

How does the world around you make its way into your abstract imagery?

One of my strongest memories as a child was when I would lay in bed and try to fall asleep. I would stare at the wall and create a grid and imagine images in each square of moving light and color. Abstraction speaks to me. These days I am always looking at patterns, textures, colors, shapes and lines in an abstracted way. Using the camera as a viewfinder has sharpened my vision as a painter. I don't look at or use the photos in the studio but just the act of stopping, noticing and capturing the image filters it way into my work.

One of Lisa Pressman's source photos

Do you work on a single series at a time or do you juggle themes and ideas? 

I am always juggling themes, ideas and materials. I work on many pieces at a time and they are all in different stages of completion. After the Passing Through work leaves the studio, I will be continuing to work on a series of paintings that deal with structure, geometry and space. Some of the consistent themes in my work are transformation and decay, building history, interior and exterior spaces, windows and vessels, mapping and both the close up and the far away. I find that the imagery in my work appears and reappears over years.

Shifting Time 2, Pigmented wax and mixed media on panel, 30" x 30"

Who are some living artists that you admire? 

Today's picks would be: Mark Bradford, Jay Kelly, Brenda Goodman, Louise Fishman, Amy Silman, William Kendridge, El Anatsui, Sqeak Carnwath Thomas Nozkowski, Jonathan Lasker, Brice Marden and Andy Goldsworthy. I have a feeling Frank Stella will be in on the list after I see the show at the Whitney.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your current show?

I am looking forward to seeing all this work outside of my studio. The surfaces of the paintings are rich with texture and subtle shifts of color, so to see them up on the wall, properly lit, will be revealing.

Lisa Pressman "Passing Through"
Causey Contemporary
29 Orchard Street, NYC
Opening is Friday, November 13th, 6-8
The show runs through 12/13/2015
View the exhibition catalog online