The Burden of Content

Altoon Sultan, Hay Storage, Central Valley, California, 1995, oil on canvas, 44
Altoon Sultan, Hay Storage, Central Valley, California, 1995, oil on canvas, 44 x 66 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Altoon Sultan blogs about her transition from painting complex landscapes to smaller, more abstract works.

Sultan writes: "I wanted to get closer to 20th century reductive abstraction, which I love. But that's only part of the story: I also wanted to get out from under the heavy burden of content, the meaning––environmental, sociological––of those paintings... I began to feel hemmed in by my content; what had motivated me before––the difficult environmental and social issues around farming––became extraneous to my concerns, which were formalist... I still find my subjects in agricultural implements; they have such variety of shape and color that they are of continual interest to me. But I don't expect any story beneath them, any social/historical/environmental content; there is enough meaning and feeling and mystery in color/shape/form/light/composition."