Sneak Peek: Forward and Back

November 3, 2011

By Jared Ainscough

Technology and art have a funny relationship. Sometimes art changes and manipulates technology, expanding its use and ideas, and sometimes it is the technology that changes the artwork. Keep in mind that when I say technology I mean all scientific and artistic advances, from the paintbrush to the camera to the personal computer.

Susan Schwalb: Strata #426 (2007), silverpoint on Plike paper

People are fond of saying “the medium is the message,†meaning that the way you present your message (that is, the technology you use) says a great deal about the message itself. A perfect example is silverpoint artist Susan Schwalb. We’ll feature her work in our upcoming January/February 2012 issue. If the term silverpoint artist has you scrambling for Google, you are not alone. This ancient method of drawing on specially coated paper with a thin wire of silver (or some other soft metal such as gold or copper) dates back medieval times.

Morning Mist (2010), silverpoint and acrylic on wood

The final drawings are beautiful and masterful in their subtlety–painstakingly created with a steady hand. But what intrigues me about Schwalb is that she has made the decision to work differently. She isn’t just a painter, or drawer or printmaker; she is a silverpoint artist. When you know how she makes the work, it changes the way you think about it. In many ways it changes the way you look at it.

Susan Schwalb: A Gathering Quiet II (2010), silverpoint and acrylic on wood

By altering the way she works–taking a step backward from modern technology–Susan Schwalb has pushed her art forward in a new and fascinating way.