Interview with David Doherty / by Cybele Gontar

Gallery manager, Emery Gluck, sat down with David Doherty to discuss his current show, Evolve.


EG: So, David, you titled the show Evolve, and I think that’s a great place to start. Where did this title come from? 

DD: Before I start anything on canvas I like to get an idea of where it’s going with a series of paintings on paper. I call them prototypes, maybe that’s because of my engineering background, but yeah I make these prototypes/studies and the work evolves from there. My whole philosophy about painting is that the work takes a life of its own and continues to evolve throughout every step of the process. 

EG: Can you tell me more about your process? What’s a typical studio day like for you?

DD: “Well it starts around 4:30 am. My studio is in a large container building with no air conditioning so I like to get there early. But once I’m there I like to work for about 30 minutes, making some initial gestures, just laying out a general composition. If I’m working on a large canvas I get a lot of inspiration from the paper prototypes I mentioned earlier. I don’t copy them, they just inspire me as I further the process. So, after my initial marks I take some time to sit with the work, to think, and then I come back to it. I like to think my paintings have lives of their own, I ask them ‘Where do you want me to go next’? I talk to my paintings all the time – literally, out loud ‘Hey honey, how you doing this morning’? You have to have a conversation with the work, some of these conversations are easy and a painting seems to happen instantly, others are more of a struggle. The final part of this conversation is knowing when to step away. You have to know when to step away. 

 EG: I love that you talk to your paintings. I see a lot of evidence of these conversations in the scribbly, handwriting-like gestures that seem to be a common characteristic of your work. It reminds me a lot of Cy Twombly, did he inform your style at all?

DD: Oh definitely. I used to live in Houston and would just spend hours in the Cy Twombly Gallery. I would sit there in amazement, surrounded by these gigantic paintings. Twombly is a huge source of inspiration for me, his work really helped expand my practice and way of approaching a piece. I spent a lot of time researching him – his life, his work, the end of his career. I knew I couldn’t replicate his work, but I began to take bits and pieces of inspiration from him and put them back together in a new way that made sense to me. 

EG: Yes, I definitely see that in your work. It became with a fascination with this artist, and it all Evolved from there. 

DD: Exactly! It all evolves.