Many people, whether collectors, curators, art critics or simply curious individuals with an appetite for learning ask: is abstract painting work or is it play? Of course answering this question depends a lot on how you define work vs play as these terms often overlap and mean different things to different people.
For me, painting is a lot about play. One gets into the studio not really knowing how the moments will go. The loaded brush moves quickly on the canvas, dripping this way and that, a form filled in with paint, scraped, removed, and then perhaps repainted in a different or parallel fashion, playful decisions keeping the too thinking brain out of the way. When a child paints, whether with fingers or brushes, they lose themselves in the painting. They tilt their heads, sometimes even resting on an extended arm and sing and dance their way into the painting. A child under the age of ten rarely cares about proportion or perspective. They are ever so free to deal with color and shape and this freedom is a beautiful thing to observe. Top and bottom, east and west, north and south all get happily lost in the painting process.
Work for many individuals is a daily grind, something they dread or look to avoid and the term work implies seriousness, intention and a final product or series of decisions. For me while an adult with a ‘playful’ state of mind painting allows me for a time at least to return to a childlike state Picasso said, “when I was 14 years old I could paint like an old master. It took me the rest of my life to learn to paint like a child.” Work only comes into play (all puns intended) when dealing with issues of transportation and organization. These are short-lived events on the larger face of things. A painter plays and paints a picture. The world sees it and smiles.