Art is a Partnership
Somebody once told me about this guitar player. He was good. He could reel off amazing solos every night. A fan asked what went through his mind as he played so emotionally. Jeff said, Are my fingers in the right place?
Artist’s statements are where you find them—in the art. Art isn’t accidental and artists have agendas. There are precepts to follow. Still, the meaning of art is a partnership, and I’m just one of many partners.
I grew up in the burbs of Chicago. My Czech grandfather did letterpress printing in his basement, and my dad was a printer, too. I went to school at Western Illinois, better known for soybeans than art. My parents wanted me to be a teacher. I secretly changed my major; even so, they came to graduation.
After school I went west, bouncing off Busby to Astoria, where I worked for a local printer, then back to Helena before I mildewed. I typeset at Falcon Press in its early years. Later I did graphic design, freelance and otherwise. The Holter Museum used to send you the postcards I created. I painted when I could.
(I had a show) thirty-one and a half years ago, six months before my son was born. After a second child, my daughter, was in school, I started painting again—a private form of meditation. And now I have this show of work from the past three decades.
Fonts and writing systems that might have been occupied and fascinated me. That was my starting point for painting. My art became more non-representational over the years. I favor patterns and grids and colors that point to – my partner says – colored patterns and grids.
You need to understand that the photos taken during our honeymoon show street grates in Paris, rows of cabbages near Prague, and avenues of standing stones in Scotland. I almost always work with watercolors. Sometimes I paint on Yupo paper, but typically I paint on traditional watercolor paper. The paints themselves come mainly from Daniel Smith. I work from dry to wet and light to dark with the paints, the usual and nothing more esoteric than that.
When I came back to painting, another artist warned me that it’s art while you’re doing it, and afterwards it’s merchandise. The mystery is in the other half of the story. You buy that merchandise, take it home, see patterns you only just then recognize, and the merchandise becomes art again.
Art is a partnership.
~ Jan Novy (1952 – 2019)