I’m not afraid to work with stronger colors. Now each painting has a dominant hue. There is more impact of what a color can do. Directness is important to me. I want the paintings to look spontaneous, not like it’s been labored over.
Blue Tablecloth, 36 x 25.5 inches, oil on canvas

Excerpts from an interview between curator Susan Barnes Robinson and Pauline Khuri Majoli, first published on the occasion of the artist’s retrospective in 1987.

Susan Barnes Robinson: In the 1950’s, color became stronger in your work.

Pauline Khuri Majoli: I wanted a stronger color statement and as a result my painting gradually be- came flatter and flatter. When you work with larger areas of color and don’t break up the colors as much, color relationships have more impact. I’m not afraid to work with stronger colors. Where before I was working with a full gamut of colors, now each painting has a dominant hue. There is more impact of what a color can do.

SBR: Your recent work seems more simpli- fied in composition and freer than in earlier paintings.

PKM: In my oils I have found that if I work more thinly, they are more luminous. Then the canvas shows through like in a water- color. Another artist commented that I ap- proach oil like watercolor; this is very difficult because you can’t make radical changes. I’m concerned with contrasting transparent and opaque areas. You have to know which colors you want and whether you want it to be opaque or transparent before you put it down. It’s very direct and that is what I want. I’m not concerned with making a lot of changes. If I make changes I lose the in- tensity of the color. Directness is important to me. I want the paintings to look sponta- neous, not like it’s been labored over.

Patterns on Blue 24 x 24 inches, oil on canvas

SBR: How do you get a painting started?

PKM: On the canvas, I usually start with line. In the past it was a very neutral line, burnt sienna. In more recent work, I wanted the line to show and I used a colored line, usu- ally some form of blue: thalo blue or ultramarine. Right now, I’m drawing in with char- coal, fixing it, then painting and letting the charcoal show. I found I couldn’t get a fine enough line when I was drawing with the brush and I liked the contrast of the charcoal and paint. I want to let the process show. I try to retain the immediacy of response to the subject so I don’t lose sight of what excited me in the first place.
The edges of the shapes are important to me also. Sometimes I’ll leave white around the shape to bring it out more, working the negative shape toward a positive shape. Although it may look casual, how I build up to that edge of the positive shape is very deliberate. The edges are very important in creating lines—white lines.

Pauline Khuri Majoli received both her BA and MA from UCLA. She was a private student of the inter- nationally known painter and founder of Synchromism, Stanton Macdonald-Wright from 1945-1952. Working with Wright, she developed a strong sense of color, which she explored, using still life as a pri- mary subject. She was Professor of Art at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California from 1966-1987. In 1987 the university honored her with a retrospective exhibition, which was accompanied by a catalogue of her work. Pauline Khuri Majoli has won various awards and is represented in many private collections both in the United States and Europe. She has spent part of each year painting in France since 1983.

You can download a copy of this interview here.