Signals and Disruptions

More than ever, my paintings seem to be formed from accidents, second thoughts, and emotional states related to the news of the world. The initial, perhaps grandiose drive of these paintings is to induce an experience of floating in the viewer, but really, I think it is to question the line between transcending an issue, and escaping it. The title Floating World is based upon the ‘floating world’ of 18th century Ukiyo-e prints, the worldview based on hedonism, pleasure, and escapism; a world envisioned to be safe from danger or disaster, both real and imagined. I’m always trying to navigate the relationship between the act of painting and world events. Lately, I think about disaster and the ways we find to distance ourselves from it. Here's a link a friend just posted on facebook, which, as is typical, received about 3 hits, including mine:

https://news.vice.com/story/brazil-is-handing-over-the-amazon-rainforest-to-mining-companies-and-big-agriculture?utm_source=dmfb

 

I want to understand the connection between my painting process and the artificial disasters of our age: oil-spills, fracking, nuclear meltdowns, political upheavals. The motif of these events appear spontaneously as I work, in a literal sense as imagery, and metaphorically in my handling of the paint. I’m curious about moments when the creative process implies destruction: erasing a mark that doesn't work, leveling a surface to prepare it for the next layer, painting over areas that no longer function in the context of a given painting.  Within the world of painting experience, these moments are innocent ones, yet structurally, how much do they differ from the violations enacted upon the natural landscape by a culture’s need for expansion? To what degree are my painting habits influenced and driven by the cultural assumptions we all navigate?

 

I include a roving set of art historical references that seem to have no internal relationship, as if their very nature is an escapist one: 18th and 19th century paintings of women and landscapes, Comic book and cartoon imagery, Tibetan Tangka paintings, Flat color, Rebuses, and Yantras. Unable to find ground in the attempt to make sense of these disparate themes, the viewer is confronted with a kind of conceptual floating.

 

Like dreams, or perhaps the nature of things, I’m interested in imagery that lives within broken spatial orientations. I see vertiginous pairing of color, and forms that do not converge, as analogs to ideas that do not converge, to cultural assumptions that clash. These paintings hope to disrupt the viewer’s psychological code that defines what center in the body (physical, emotional, conceptual) will automatically interpret a visual cue. And within the disruption, signal the ability to float.

Floating Thoughts.

notes on Floating World, on view at The Teaching Gallery at Hudson Valley Community College September 15 - October 22, 2016

 

Palettes of The United Nations

I thought of this show a little bit like the United Nations, in that I’ve been entertaining the notion that if I could get conflicting attitudes about painting to coexist in the same body of work, they might suggest a state of reconciliation that would, perhaps, bode well for us collectively. 

With this in mind I set out to include all the influences that felt most relevant to me right now: comic books, cliffhangers, painter’s palettes, rebuses, yantras, the floating world, and 19th century romantic landscape painting. that’s a lot to pack in, but there’s a reason for this excess, which I hope to get to later. 

Here's an image of how I conceived the show: these are post it notes attached to sono tubes, (which are building tubes for constructing houses, and are also used for shipping paintings). the post-its are like throw away thoughts, and were a way to literally build the show conceptually.

Human Resource Department, 2016

Human Resource Department, 2016

 

Cliffhangers

 

When I was first putting Floating World together I was originally going to call the show Cliffhangers. For one, I thought it would be funny, because no one is really too concerned or panicky about the fate of a particular painting, or Painting in General. Unless you happen to be a painter, in which case you know the relative importance of every mark or brush stroke. Then you understand the razor’s edge of decision making in painting, knowing, for example, that every color applied will alter the existing colors on the canvas, and every mark will show up the pre existing ones as true or false moments.

 

This seems to be a moment in political and cultural history in which we've collectively become familiar with the idea of disaster. And yet there is an ongoing sense of unreality; the media is more akin to reality television, with a constant Cliffhanger quality to the news.  The emotional undertone of the paintings in Floating World is my way of responding to daily news that is impossible to digest.  

 

One of the themes I obsess about at this moment has to do with the way we make disaster cute, or palatable, in order to get on with our lives. Back in 2011 when Fukushima became a household word, I remember wondering how I could celebrate my 40th birthday in light of the news, which had occurred within the same week. Five years later I’m still wondering about this phenomenon. Fukushima, Mon Amour, one of the darkest paintings thematically speaking, has the brightest colors.  

Fukushima, Mon Amour, 2016 with Students from HVCC

Fukushima, Mon Amour, 2016 with Students from HVCC

 

 

Of more interest to us as painters, there is the notion of what I think of as the cliffhanger within the painting process: that moment which occurs whenever a flat shape meets up with another shape, and a kind of visual falling off occurs: you reach the edge of one space and hit the edge of another, with no transition. If you’re trying to describe continuous space, but can’t summon the ability to pull it off that day, for whatever reason, then you know this moment.  Then there is the deliberate act of creating discontinuous space, of reminding the viewer that they are, after all, looking at a flat image, which is something painters have been doing for a long time. I’ve come to think of these moments, in which you seem to reach the edge of an idea, as Cliffhangers.