In the mid-1970s de Kooning embarked on a series of paintings whose central theme was the figure in the landscape. In a move typical of his art, neither figure nor landscape was clearly identifiable in these works, but rather, elements of both were intertwined into a semi-abstract, active and constantly shifting painterly surface that attempted to convey a sense of the constantly mutating nature of reality. It is an effect that has been compared to the pattern of light reflecting on the water or more poetically, to the path of a bird in flight and is one that was predominantly aimed at conveying an understanding of the interdependence of both man and nature. Painted in 1977, Porch in a Landscape is a work that relates closely to this series of paintings.
For de Kooning more than for most artists, painting was "a way of living" and it has often been said of his paintings that none are ever really finished works because they are all episodes in his continuously ongoing way of life. Not only would he work on several paintings at the same time, constantly referring from one to the other, but throughout his career he would borrow elements from one work or period of work. Often layering his paintings with a variety of passages so that his painterly form often included a collage of motifs vying with and against one another in a way that generated a highly animated and diverse surface, de Kooning's paintings never sit still but are all seemingly caught in a moment of episodic evolution.
In the 1970s de Kooning added to this technique of building up his imagery by also scraping it off and paring it down, sometimes even sanding the surface of his paintings in such a way that much of the paint was removed and only a faint trace of his earlier efforts remained. Onto this animated platform of barely distinguishable line and form, de Kooning would build new forms as if deliberately referring to the fact that all his work was a constantly ongoing process built on what had gone before and yet, still, as ever, dependent on the vitality and urgency of the present moment in order to be born. " Just because you're getting older doesn't mean you're getting better," de Kooning observed around this time, "but you can't stop either, or you'll be lost. So you go ahead, even though you don't know where you're going, because you never know. You just know how to leave from where you've been." (de Kooning cited in Willem de Kooning exh. cat. Tate Gallery, London, 1995, p. 202.)
De Kooning's use of scraping off as a means of building his painting's image, lends his work a temporal dimension. The marks of a previous session showing through underneath newer marks generates a mysterious sense of depth within his paintings that creates a profound sense that they expose and reflect a reality that lies beyond the realm of the purely visual. As a work like Porch in the Landscape shows, de Kooning's embracing of the ambiguities between the figurative and the abstract, between the objective and the landscape and between forms and patterns made at various stages in the creation of the work, powerfully conveys a sense of the world as an experience rather than as something seen. Full of uncertainties and corrections, of seemingly confused and conflicting marks, de Kooning's mastery of his medium magically combines his daubs, splashes, scratches, and his tense febrile but energy-infused line into a cohesive and understandable, if not altogether distinct, image. De Kooning's imagery is never defined, its borders and outlines are inextricably linked to the innate logic of the rest of the painting. His paintings show an abstract surface unified through this ability to convey a unique perception of the figurative world by the abstract means of his material paint. De Kooning's deep and perhaps unique understanding of the material nature of paint has often been admired. Playing with the borderlines between the figurative and the abstract de Kooning's imagery conveys a profound sense of the interdependence of all things in and endless cycle of life.