Interview with Susan Jane Walp by Larry Groff
for the JSS in Civita
Susan Jane Walp graciously agreed to an interview with me for the JSS in Civita. We conducted the interview through an exchange of emails. I would like to thank her again for her involvement and also with her generosity with providing higher resolution images as well as samples of her earlier work. Susan Jane Walp lives and paints in rural Vermont. Ms. Walp is represented by the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in NYC, where a show of her work is planned this fall.
In a recent conversation with the painter Stuart Shils, I mentioned my plans for this interview with Susan Walp and that I was troubled by the fact I’d never had the opportunity to see her work in person, only through reproduction. Stuart, who has stood in front of her paintings at great length over the years, said that he’d love to write a short introduction:
“The beauty of Susan’s paint narrative is really not visible via internet reproduction or even in well printed catalogs, because her moves don’t translate into reproduction, except vaguely. The slow, hypnotic seduction of her work is rooted within the wide range of ways that her brushes, knives, pencils, touch the canvas and how they all sit together to express a quality of observation characterized by passion and restraint. The immense sensuous appeal of Susan’s work is not about it’s subject matter, but instead with how and to what degree she has acted inventively, controlling and organizing painted space and the ways that our eyes move within it, using paint as a carefully shaped language with full bodied but delicate syntax.” …
“Among many people who care deeply about painting, Susan’s canvases are among the most respected, appreciated and coveted. A feast for the senses, there is an ironic and fascinating relationship between their size and the degree to which they hold our eyes. Although, “hold our eyes” is really an understatement. You cannot get your eyes out of one of these paintings and the deeper you enter, the more you realize what there is to see. At first glance these paintings reveal a humility and modest confidence, and when you begin to look closely, they really take your eyes with the compelling grip of a long dream.”
– Stuart Shils, 4/29/2012
In a 2007 Tibor de Nagy Gallery catalogue Stephan Westfall said:
“To look at her work is to have a conversation about the full history of painting up through the perceptual innovations of Modernism, and to find illumination in the realization that all the theory or historical imperative at one’s command still needs to be animated, or “charmed,” by sensibility. As a material awareness this is an intimate experience, one naturally suited to the physical scale of Walp’s painting, where we are invited to come close.”
Larry Groff: What are some of your most important influences or events that lead you to become a still life painter?
Susan Jane Walp: Probably the most important event was meeting up with Lennart Anderson in 1968 at a summer painting program run by Boston University’s School of Fine Arts in Lenox, MA. I was a student at Mount Holyoke College at the time and had enrolled in the B.U. program to make up classes that I had dropped due to an illness. There were too many students in the beginning section so a few of us had the good luck of being moved into the advanced class, taught by Lennart. I remember being so impressed by the seriousness and talent and training of the B.U. students…during the breaks they were reading Nietzsche and Camus…this was an entirely new world for me. It was a figure class and Lennart painted along with us. I recall he felt a bit guilty about this!—accepting a salary for a summer of painting. But nothing could have been more worthwhile for a young student of painting than to be painting by his side. By the end of the summer I had been transformed from an inward, ill, somewhat depressed and confused young woman into someone who had a purpose in life and an eagerness and confidence to move on and open more doors. At the end of the summer, Lennart recommended the New York Studio School, still in its infancy, as a next step for me. I did eventually go there, where I studied drawing with the other person who became an important lifelong teacher for me, Nicholas Carone. The Studio School was a wonderful experience, especially for drawing. I loved it there, I felt so at home, not only at the school itself, but also in the tenement neighborhood in the East Village where I lived.
Please read the rest of this lengthy and engaging interview at the JSS in Civita website.