Fields of Color: Corrine Hatt in the StudioDecember 17, 2015
In the Etching Studio, Corrine Hatt creates puzzles, trying to find different combinations of colors and shapes with each piece. But unlike a usual puzzle, her pieces do not fit together perfectly. Corrine’s pieces click into place in a looser way. Her warped shapes instead overlap or just barely touch; large blocks of color push others off the page while slivers of white ground separate shapes that were never meant to fit together in the first place. Corrine places a curved rhombus beside a slanted rectangle and so on, then rearranges and reimagines the collage as it comes together in front of her. Each composition is borne from intuitive exploration as she tries to say something new with her established vocabulary of shapes and colors.
As a Studio Workspace resident, Corrine came to WSW to experiment with monotype printmaking and expand her collage practice. Corrine started her artistic career as a painter, but after several years of moving towards a more abstract space, she was stuck. Then, just a few years ago, she began an art blog to force herself to make art and think in new ways every single day.
“Somewhere along the way,” Corrine says, “I found collage as a way to get unstuck.”
Corrine originally intended for the blog to act as a journal. She created collages that documented the world around her and were specific to a place and time. She collaged movie tickets, shipping labels, pages of magazines—anything within arm’s reach. Corrine quickly lost interest in trying to attach a story to the imagery; she instead wanted the pieces to exist on their own.
Over time, Corrine gravitated towards experimenting more with colors and shapes, which led into her newest work at WSW. Instead of found materials, she uses paper that she has painted and cut into her desired shapes to create her collages. Despite the move to a more abstract, anti-referential formal vocabulary, Corrine’s works are still often inspired by her walks around Berkeley and the plants outside her home. She finds her shapes in bushes, street signs—anything and everything around her becomes another piece in one of her puzzles. “It’s about the experience of seeing and repeatedly feeling a thrill looking at the world around me,” Corrine says.
Corrine’s blocks of color harken back to Mark Rothko and the Color Field painters, who viewed color as their most powerful communication tool. They sought a pure, abstract style that would do away with any suggestion of illustration, and Corrine continues to work in that tradition. “I’m trying to get rid of any kind of fussiness,” she says with a smile.
As Corrine’s work pushes past narrative and eliminates the “unnecessary elements,” it evokes emotion and memories of experiences using the barest of essentials. These vague shapes are simultaneously everything and nothing, holding no value and immense value. Corrine views them like mathematical symbols, superficially simple but representing something much more complex and important.
“With collage,” Corrine says, “I could take a bunch of things that weren’t much on their own, then put them together and create something more.”
At WSW, Corrine used monotypes as a bridge between her collage and painting practices. As she moves away from collage and back towards painting, she maintains the sorts of imagery and geometric vocabulary she found through the daily journal. Corrine sees collage more as a tool than a medium. It’s a way to get her ideas on the page and respond to them fluidly, and this guides her experimentation moving forward. Her last few blog entries feature watercolor interpretations of these familiar shapes, offering a new texture and color palette for her configurations.
Corrine is imagining new possibilities within a deceptively simple format. In each pattern we might see the surface of the earth from space, or the sands of a great desert, or the old tree behind one’s childhood home, or the view from a train window, and so on and so on. There’s something new and hidden in each combination of shapes, calling to the viewer to find and free it.
Corrine Hatt is an abstract artist based in Berkeley, California. She received a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland (now California College of the Arts). See more of her work at her website corrinehatt.com, keep up with her weekly collage posts on her blog, and see more photos from her residency on our Flickr.