The name of the show, “Further Complications” relates to several things going on with me right now. It describes the increased complexity of the figures in the paintings. It reflects the increased scope of work, for example the super grid. It relates to my thinking about art this last year of isolation. It describes the current economic realities that we are all dealing with and the uncertainty of national and global politics. In essence the culmination of all these forces.
Further Complications in the Figures
People familiar with my process know that I do many sketches for each painting. I look for the newest perfection on the form that I have been painting since 2005. These are faces. They are much more recognizable in my early work. Now after more than 420 paintings many of the easy ideas have already been realized. This is not to say that I explored all of the options as they came to light, but the direction that my interest took me led me to further and further abstraction. The current figures are many faces overlaid on each other. It is many feelings compressed into one experience. This is a natural evolution in the form but is conceptually related to my belief that emotion is rarely if ever one-dimensional. It is perfectly normal (and ordinary) to experience several emotions simultaneously. We live in world where things interact and effect us simultaneously, why should we assume that we react to them one at a time like a gang in a Kung Fu movie. In real life they would never line up and attack the hero one at a time, they would gang up all at once. My intention with the paintings is for the viewer’s own state to guide which emotions they see in the painting.
This concept came to me one day in my old studio in the Bakehouse Art Complex. I was working on a painting, I think it was Number 365 or 366. I was taking a break, sitting down and looking at the painting from across the room. I had Number 328 hanging on the wall to my right by the door. I had for whatever reason always been looking at the painting one way; orienting the face in such a way that it was facing the viewers left, with an open mouth. When I looked over at the painting it just ‘flipped’ in my mind and suddenly it was facing towards my right with a terse, silent brooding mouth. That started me thinking that the viewers internal state affected how they saw the painting, and not just in some kind of general way but with an immediacy that could produce different interpretations for the same individual at different times.
So if each moment is different, and each drawing is the product of a moment then there will be infinite variation in the drawings. This does not mean that there are not patterns and similarities between moments and drawings. If things changed dramatically moment to moment there would be no order, just a cascade of confusing images. Thus incremental and constant evolution is essential to the maintaining a coherent system. These similarities are what map the shape of this chaotic system.
Thinking along these lines is what led me to assemble the super grid. The desire to get more individual drawings in one place than ever before. I wanted the experience to be immersive; surrounding the viewer so that patterns could emerge from the noise. It was important to the concept that the drawings be in consecutive order. I have displayed grids of drawings like this before but never at this scale, never this many pages of figures. The final count is 48 pages, each with 165 figures for a total of 7920 figures on the whole wall. I expected to see patterns that I did not see before. And I did. At this level, distinct elements of the stroke become more apparent, which leads into the next point.
The new work has taken concepts I previously developed in two new directions. The first is color, beginning with the yellow paintings in January. I took a constant set of colors and changed how they were used across a series of paintings. I will come back to that in a later post though as it’s too much to include here. The second direction, which relates to the super grid, is that I have now started separating strokes in the drawings by using multiple line colors. This multi-linear approach draws attention to the individual parts of the iterative figuration. Whereas in previous works the line appears as a mass, a layer, now there is depth to the line and its component parts are more easily identified. I took this one step further in 420 and 421 by switching colors on hard directional changes in the line. When the pen stops and abruptly changes direction this is a new stroke even if the line is not broken. The effect is subtle in these two paintings but it will be expanded in the future. I am still thinking about what the next project will be.