A thirteen year cycle from 1993-2006. Starting with New Years Eve Paintings (which Bittleston continues), and culminating with the Dream Collaboration paintings Residency in 2006.
Most active in 1997 and 2003/2004 when Bittleston made hundreds of ink paintings, more...
Influenced by "lead pouring" (Bleigiessen), East Asian Ink wash painting and traditional watercolor techniques, which Bittleston studied with Edith Smith and by notoriously going though every art book in Stanford Library in alpabetical order.
Each of these works is a unique improvisation, in a medium that stains the paper on contact. As Bittleston puts it: "Ink painting has the immediacy, and vulnerability of performance. Each work is an adventure, the risk is to set out without knowing and let my hands do the thinking. At the heart of exploration is the allure of the unknown. It is a game of flirting with future. The paper is the future and the ink is the past, their interaction is the present.
There is a moment before I make a mark when anything could happen, I imagine that same limitlessness was there before the big bang, as god took a breath before saying 'let there be light'... then, as ink meets paper, the future is happening, faster than I can take it all in, I am just observing as the painting paints itself."
These works bring together two distinct elements. One of risk and spontaneous expression, the other of controlled planning and meticulous detail. In the mature works from 2003 and 2004 it is hard to tell the difference. Was that abstract shape a fast gestural splatter, or was it obsessively built up from a thousand tiny brush strokes?
Bittleston was familiar with Japanese technique of Kirifuki/Fukibokashi and misted ink with a Mouth Atomizer - found in the varnishing section of the art store, it is the "Medieval" equivalent of a spray can, you blow into one end of two small tubes that meet in a right angle - this device is hard to use and results are often unpredictable, which probably appealed to Bittleston, he wrote that he likes "the idea of painting with his breath".
Bittleston's predeterminate counterpoint to the unpredictable spraying was replicating spray textures by fastidiously painting each dot of the spray by hand. This method of reducing the ink paintings down to points, like pixels or particles, gave rise to some of his strongest work that juxtaposes broad, wet brush strokes that seem to be wielded by the hand of chaos itself, with purposefully building up transparent layers into fine textures and hard edges that melt into soft gradients.
Bittleston's concept of deconstructing improvisation, by slowing it down, is continued in the multi-year dot drawings of "82 Dreamscapes".
NOTE TO SELF: the following is pasted from the old mbdc, this could be edited and maybe be of interest...:
Misha Bittleston's black and white works are conceived as ink drawings. The process for creating these demands both control and abandonment of control as if to the will of the painting itself. These paintings are created using watercolor techniques without white pigment. These techniques require concentrated spontaneity, as India ink on paper, unlike watercolor, is permanent and staining, leaving no room for "errors". The challenge of each painting is dependant on harnessing those aspects of the painting that go their own way. Just as some novelists say of their characters that it is important to let them have a mind of their own, so, the unpredictable and accidental aspects of this process often result in the most exciting elements of a composition. The mastery of this process requires the ability to be simultaneously in control and in surrender.
Misha Bittleston 1997/08/25, Untitled, Ink, 14x11 in.
Misha Bittleston 2005/01/28, Falling, Ink on Paper.
Misha Bittleston 1999/01/01, Untitled/SLK, V, Ink on Paper, 14x11 in.
Misha Bittleston 2003/08/10, Untitled/Proc 2, Ink on Paper, 14x10 in.
Misha Bittleston 07, 14to25/97/1997, Ink and Watercolor.
Misha Bittleston 2003/11/20, Untitled/STKG VI, Ink on Paper, 13 1/2x10 in.
Misha Bittleston 2004/04/24, Untitled/C, Ink on Paper.
Misha Bittleston 08/16/1997, 1997, Ink and Watercolor.
Misha Bittleston 1997/11/09, Dyptych I, Ink, 14x11 in.
Misha Bittleston 2004/11/28, Untitled/Moksha E, Ink on Paper.
Misha Bittleston 2004/02/21, Untitled, Ink on Paper, 17x12 in.