June 2023 [GROUP 2]
In my first semester of the MFA program in Lesley Art + Design, I delighted in the opportunity to expand visual and conceptual language through a consistent practice of drawing, painting, and recording. From previous artworks and illustrations I found continuity in seeking to translate nuanced visual narratives to larger format 2D works. My process continues to function as a means to archive modes of perception, intuitively and analytically. This dual lens finds an abundance of stimuli, from experience in both eastern and western hemispheres to interest in linear abstraction, music, literature, history, theology and myth, leading to imagined spaces where memory mixes with un/fixed notions of the present, and I document my experience of scale and time.
I began in January with a series of visual experiments. These flat, abstract studies focus on isolating intuitive operation in the painting/viewing process. I found that keen awareness of these signals led to form and possibility. I simultaneously engaged with landscape in varied artworks, often returning to Chinese master ink paintings and Korean masked folk dance—a sense of magisterial movement containing blooms of human activity in expansive nature. Surprisingly, I found the aesthetics of 山水 (shanshui) brushwork and 水袖 (shuixiu) dance echoed in Breugel’s “metaphysical objectivity”—his way of placing the ugly and the ordinary in beautiful compositions and natural contexts. Breugel’s work encouraged my interest in representing historical themes in the context of contemporary issues. However, he worked almost entirely within illusionistic space. I still felt tension between abstract vocabulary (which felt direct and authentic as a process) and figural representation (which is my background and inclination). Under the guidance of my mentor, Emily Eveleth, works by Antonio Lopez Garcia, Amy Sillman, and Wangechi Mutu helped frame the trajectory, provide reasonable methods, and define points where abstract and representational impulses coexist. Sillman noted that figuration is the construction of abstraction that operates synthetically on pre-understood forms/colors/lines. As on a cave wall, a line can be itself, or more, or as in the work of the Italian Siennese painters (Duccio, Sasseta). Here, flat space is enchanted, and scale-shifting figure/ground elements can exist magically under construction—the realm of “becoming” and change.
In June, I visited the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and saw “Philip Guston Now.” An artist who constantly changed, Guston consistently endeavored to paint his way through complex concerns. Despite political corruption, social injustice, war, health, personal, and professional identity crises, Guston’s paintings reflect consciousness of paradoxes of thought and action (in his visual vernacular), gain and loss (in the actual process of painting) amongst incongruous but conversant images. Often, the linchpin is irony. Nonetheless, real loss and tragedy are present, evoking sincere lamentation. This lead me to ask if in a culture inundated with visual meaning whether visual lament is an authentic way of responding to loss? The architect and artist Alfred Jaar cautioned that in lieu of depicting a grieving mourner or sensationalizing the body of the victim, art must contain a real personal response. Whether losses of life, speech, ownership, autonomy, purity, diversity, or otherwise, the expression of grief in a relational context can create a shared space unadorned by superficial reaction. Guston sought to place himself within that response. I saw potential in painting to recognize complex voices in lament through re-contextualized images from art history, social media, my own daily commute and dreams in evolving exploratory marks. It is at these intersections that I arrive with three veins of work: oils (“Eicha” paintings), small abstracts that explore the intuitive process, and a developing group of large sequential charcoal drawings (each 42×60”).
Critique Space, Lunder 320
In my art practice, I maintain tension between process and product. My work employs the figure in empty or imagined environments, hovering between surface and story. I express presence through color, and a sense of time through the history of accumulated line. The hope of realizing an unanticipated visual resonance impels me both towards adding layers, and to subtractive research in the depth of the surface. When I deconstruct the figure, or avoid it altogether, I search for fitting symbols in its place. The weight of the body, its dynamic suspension, ambiguous direction, and presence references communal experience, an archetype of divine or spiritual presence. Scaffolded buildings in urban landscapes—yet another corporation of the human body—create symbolically charged mundane environments, where impermanence and change is a continuum of organic deconstruction and renewal. My works are influenced by songs, literature, and myth, and hence engage the imagination and psyche. As illustrations these paintings are stylized recombinations of physical, cultural, and psychological variables, and seek to create nuanced visual narratives.
The poles of material surface and depth of illusion, perceptions of value and worthlessness, subjectivity and objectivity, identity imposed and reality observed, the painting as book and the book as object—resonate with me visually. I would like to grow in translating these concepts across other mediums and disciplines as well, through narrative and sequential elements that examine inherited stories in ways that enable a renewal in the experience of meaning, perceiving the poetry of multivalent life and the complexity of truth. Hans-Georg Gadamer described art as play, symbol, and festival. I hope my work can become a catalyst for community, a way to share the known and unknown, and a unique and serious kind of playground.