Thursday, December 3, 2009

Night Fictions, statement

"She had been walking a long while. Her senses were wide, straining against the night and the snow-covered stillness. As she walked, the air cooled her waking thoughts and her mind wandered..."

These paintings are fictions.  If written, many of their stories could begin this way.  In them, the viewer reads the story of our protagonists.  Their mental states are alluded to by facial expression, gesture, and mark. The characters are as unaware of each other as they are of audience; each is lost in a world of the senses, absorbed within their own thoughts and emotions.  Of course, we can see that their situations are remarkably parallel. There is a temptation to place the stories into sequence where there is none. Let me assure you that there was no preconception to be illustrated, no didactic intent.  The stories are built out of the painting process itself.  Paintings are an inefficient means of direct communication, or simply making an image.   They excel at oblique inference and reveal themselves slowly over time. Similar to writing fiction, I use painting as a participatory experience with the viewer, to pose questions without desiring an answer.  Painting, writing, and viewing are all acts of discovery, of revelation. 

Stare hard enough into the dark and you will begin to see things.  What I see is guided by expectation, by my own nights of wandering in winter snow.   Thematically, the series speaks about longing, the love of being lost, the excitement and apprehension of what might be found in the dark. Winter, wilderness, night are all metaphors for the unknown, the Sublime. Our age of immediacy and information stokes a new longing for slowness, introspection, and experience beyond reason.  A trip to Pompeii showed me that figures could gain meaning through half-existence, beauty through destruction.  The Villa of Mysteries' decorative murals would be less curious if they were still intact. If the path to them were less steep, the climate less hot, the city less remote, the experience of witnessing them in person may be less valued.  In this sense, the subject of my work could also be seen as a literal reflection of pilgrimage, or the arduous journey as an end unto itself. 

My process reflects my belief that art is richer when discovered rather than imposed. I use a variety of sources:  I've carried a tripod in the snow, photographed and sketched; yet, memory is my primary aid.  I open my eyes wide at night and try to retain the experience. In the studio, these elements are pieced together, yet I rarely begin with a specific image in mind. Each painting begins with a vague mood that is brought forth by color.   As forms begin to emerge and take shape, I try to name and articulate the image.  The light is theatrical, a device to allow us to witness what transpires. Some of the figures are then paired with a reference but many are completely invented. Detail ebbs and flows; if a figure becomes too explicit or banal, I'll work back into it to find something more.  I work wet into wet paint, wet over dry, scrape and rework until the surface achieves its own interest for me beyond an image.