Peter Plagens

One of the debilities being a certain kind of abstract painter is that I’m bothered by the idea of impurity. That is, I don’t like little bits of figuration—other than those inevitable, unconsciously disguised ones that your psychiatrist readily sees—creeping into my paintings on canvas.

I do, however, have “figurative” thoughts and feelings, and it’s hard to keep them completely out of my art. Luckily for me, there’s something about works on paper that’s more tolerant of figurative “impurities.” Works on paper are naturally amenable to collage. That is, they let images slip in to an abstract work without ruining it.

With collage, as with almost any medium, one thing leads to another. For me, that means the collage piece containing an image leads back into abstraction in the form of cut-out colored paper. (I have a couple of file drawers of colored paper, organized by hue, going back 25 years.) I use colored paper like paint; each pasted piece is a brushstroke surrounding the now-single collaged image.