This interview was conducted in Jill Moser’s studio in Queens, New York. The interview is a three hour recording that I am currently transcribing in view of a longer future publication. Using the model of Gilles Deleuze’s famous ABC interview with Claire Parnet this discussion explores Jill Moser's philosophically inclined painting practice, going from the A of Action of the “stuttering gesture,” to the I of intimacy, to the Q of " the questioning painting”, to the Z of the zebra’s “optical negations.” The conversation moves along the alphabet through unexpected turns and theoretical interactions with Twombly’s legacy and the phenomenology of painting. What we both love about Twombly’s work is his use of writing on the threshold of meaning, and gesture as the affirmative “first philosophy” of visual expression. Twombly creates a new language, at the same time absolutely personal but also anonymous, displaced, mythic. On my part, I particularly appreciate the artist from an existential angle because he was an artist that lived in-between worlds, between the up-and-coming New York scene and the experimental art milieu in Rome during the postwar period, including Arte Informale and Arte Povera. This connection hits a nerve, myself being born in Rome but living between two worlds. Twombly was one of the first transatlantic artists that was able to combine influences coming from the American avant-garde with the multilayered cultural landscape of the Mediterranean.
- Milos Zahradka Maiorana
M: Jill, I really love your painting “Tracking” that I see here, it's a perfect opening piece, can you talk a little about it in relation to the “A” of Action.
J: Sure, “Tracking” was part of my show Play/Replay at the Lennon Weinberg gallery, paintings whose grounds were screen printed at Brand X Editions on top of which I painted. This is the dog chasing its tail continuum in my work. The origin of the screened image was in a painting called “Screen Test” (all these works have filmic references). Photos of details of the painting became the prints that became the grounds of the paintings. As you know I enjoy hybridizing different processes — having different methods of making inform each other.
I originally wanted to be a filmmaker, my earliest works were super 8 and 16 mm movies. I was first drawn to 70s avant-garde cinema and its compelling non-narrative way of seeing, the camera recording and describing at the same time, and then became curious to see if paintings could do the same. While working with the moving image I became interested in the possibility of making “still forms” that would retain the movement of cinema. The title “Tracking” refers to a tracking shot, which in cinema is any shot where the camera follows backward, forward or moves alongside the subject being recorded. I am interested in an image that is never fixed, that is always caught in the act of becoming. In many ways my painting are the product of the stuttering gesture, somewhere between action and stillness.
M: Gilles Deleuze has much to say about the act of becoming in painting, in his book on Bacon he speaks of rhythm and hysteria, the diagrammatic unfolding of the painting; not only does montage or music have a symptomatic rhythm but also painting; to some extent a painting can play itself out, it can act out.
J: Yes, painting has a rhythm. What interests me about the connection between the moving image and painting is the power of what can be called meditative viewing, the metonymic charge of images where the “sense” of the work is generated by the images themselves without an underlying narrative structure. Meaning is made through aesthetic affinity, sympathy perhaps? I call this viewing experience a surrender to the logic of the visual. Aren’t we always trying to get there as artists? The gesture is a generative act. Twombly beautifully said: “The line is the feeling, from a soft thing, a dreamy thing, to something hard, something arid, something lonely, something ending, something beginning.”