Thomas Nozkowski in his own words.

“the idea of knowing what a painting is going to end up being just drives me crazy. That’s absolutely against the rules. I want to be happy in my studio. I want it to be exciting, and I don’t want it to be a job.”

Untitled  (MH-5), 2014

Untitled (MH-5), 2014

“For political reasons, I found the kind of large scale, macho-man abstractions of early SoHo beneath contempt.

These were painters that I liked and admired, and I remember going to shows and seeing a painting that was 20 feet long—it’s like the 800-pound gorilla that sits wherever it wants to sit.

I didn’t want to paint that way, and I decided I would paint at a size that was scaled to my friends’ apartments, that could hang in a three-room walkup tenement on 7th Street.

That was the first big decision. “

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“The idea that you can work very quickly is crucial. Another component is the idea that you can have these things in your home, that it’s not a special project to have an art collection. You can have 10 paintings hanging on a wall—what a feast! On a practical level, you can carry them around with you. I have a house in the country and a house in the city, and they fit in the backseat of the car. The issue is to be able to keep working, to be able to pursue your dreams for lack of a better term. This allowed me to do that. “

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“The nice thing about the world is that everything stretches out to touch everything else, creating these references and connections beyond the visual scene at hand.

There’s a painting in this show with some Matissean curvy shapes painted in a Matisse blue—that’s not an accident, it was a decision to draw upon that blue for that particular move.”

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“I just don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. When I first started working this way, I thought that if I was as absolutely, painfully sincere as possible about what I was doing I would within some short period of time develop a signature style.

I thought that somewhere deep inside was this signature style that would come out if I just let it. To my amazement, no such signature style came to be! I’ve come to understand the signature style as a weakness—that’s as far as you can go. It’s not where you want to go, it’s where your system takes you and stops. It’s like the Peter Principle, “failing upwards.” How far can you fail?”

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“I do like the idea of saying “look, every question is different, every problem is different, why shouldn’t every painting be different?” You don’t want to get carpal tunnel, always doing the same damn painting!”

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As a painter, you have a project: there’s a thing in the world you want to make a picture of. How do you make a picture of a feeling, of a mood, of a quality of life, even of something like a sunset? The answer is that you just start, and you do it as well as you can. At a minimum, you will succeed in having a picture of how well you could do something. You’re reaching for that sunset. 

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I work every day. I have a little less stamina as I’ve gotten older, but here’s a thing—all of my ideas about why I make work, why I think other people should make work, are up for grabs. It may or may not mean anything. But what it does mean for me is it gives me a reason to be in the studio that I find compelling. I’m fascinated by being in the studio. Sometimes I’m not happy about it, it’s a real battle. But for me, there’s always something new to find, something new to do. I certainly hope that lasts forever. It feels like it will. It’s been 40 years

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RIP