As one of the leading artists to be associated with the new painting of the early 1980s, she commanded respect for her dedication in pursuing her own path. Moving on from the formal rigour of the horse paintings, Rothenberg allowed her work to draw deeper on personal experience and to become more intimate in the process. A change from acrylic to oils led to a looser style of painting that incorporated blobs and drips and allowed the figure and ground to dissolve into one another. She has also become steadily more interested in assessing the painterly opportunities presented by artists of the past, as she explained recently, I’m looking back more than ever at my modernist masters I want to play in their court for a while to take on what they took on.
Her recent paintings on the theme of the studio bear out the confidence with which she tackles the classic themes of modern art. Unlike Matisse, Braque, or her fellow American, Philip Guston, each of whom brought their full weight to bear on the theme of the studio, Rothenberg’s paintings do not immediately reveal their subject. Her approach, like her style of painting, is open-ended, reflective, unhurried, and subtly avoids the specific. These grand interiors draw us in slowly to the world of the artist, a world in which the studio is seen as a place for reading, looking, contemplating all vital activities as far as Rothenberg is concerned.
Her choice of the studio as a subject was encouraged by looking again at the paintings of Van Gogh who, she says, gave her the thought of approaching my house, my studio with some passion. As she explained recently, I feel a tremendous affinity with Van Gogh’s deep feeling for the things he painted and how he exaggerated the colours of the sky, chairs, faces, to bring them to almost more than life. The three large studio paintings in this exhibition, each painted in one of the primary colours, yellow, green and red, approach their subject with an equally passionate conviction.