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Image and details of Gregory Gillespie, Harem, 1994.


Image and details of Gregory Gillespie, Harem, 1994. Oil on panel, 25 3/4 x 15 inches.

Sometimes the best way to look at art is with the artist’s words in mind. Gregory Gillespie kept a journal for most of his career, jotting down thoughts about his life, painting and more metaphysical concerns. Here are some excerpts:


1.12.95 6:30 AM

My studio feels cluttered and disorganized. I get into habits of working on groups of related paintings for weeks at a time. First thing every day I come down and check on the tackiness of each painting. That determines which one I can work on. I start with the ones that are dry because those are the ones I can razor-blade the surface without the paint smearing. 

Razor-blading, for me, is a way to open the painting up, so I can get into it. It destroys the surface, yesterday’s marks, yesterday’s assumptions. Things pop up from the distant past, things get rubbed off and slowly disappear. 

It is early in the morning and my mind is alert. I notice everything, even the slap-dash brush marks on my paper palette as I prepare my paint. Spontaneous marks such as these have potential — some of them strike me with their bold flamboyance, some with their subtlety. I think about how I can use them — bring them into my production process and thereby expand my vocabulary. 

The goal is to stretch and allow the imagination to become more elastic. 

Yes, I am interested in freedom. The freedom to move in contradictory directions at the same time and see no contradiction. I love some of my calligraphic palette brush drawings, just as they are, without working on them. But what are they? Shall I give them away to friends — exuberant, quick doodles — a Zen gesture? Should I give it away in acknowledgment of my abundance? Do I transfer them to wood and use them as a ground to Rorschach into? Shall I frame them like Whistler’s spontaneous paintings and define them as art? Do I say, “No, these are too precious to share freely.” Do I have the nerve to define them as art, even high art of some calligraphic kind? 

Razor-blading and sanding the painting with many different grades of sandpaper: 120, 240, 320, 420, and recently 1500. Searching for new forms, suggestions for something new and fresh. I work best when there is timelessness — no deadlines, no limits. A painting can take weeks, months, years. No urgency. No rush. At times it feels as though I’m making mantras for people to meditate on, bringing up the same questions for them that I ask myself as I make the images. Painting is as close to bliss as I ever get. 


Consciousness seems to flicker from one thing to another. Perhaps it is only attention which is constantly shifting. Consciousness is a constant, awake or asleep. 

I like that these paintings require different kinds of focusing in different parts. It is like life, with multiple levels of reality.

I want extreme statements, the artist almost veering out of control, sometimes lost, challenging the assumptions of the painting he’s made in the past.