Within a brightly-colored school of ten fish, my eye will naturally travel throughout the painting and ultimately I will identify, subconsciously or otherwise, one particular creature that stands out and is in turn symbolic of some aspect of my psychology or personality. Shadows on the cave wall, kill or be killed, hunt and gather, swim towards the light.
This painting is a good example of things coming together, the underlying piece emerged in my studio last fall as the finale of a lengthy series of about fifty studies on paper, and the combination of composition, color palette and mood express the beauty and irony inherent in this series.
Meaning that the conditions of the undersea habitat create an environment that is both beautiful and haunting, hospitable and deadly, and the emotions of the fish swimming in the ocean are the same emotions we humans feel in our own tumultuous wild world of consensus reality.
By applying another handful of painted cut-outs on top of the main composition I have made it more crowded and multi-layered, while also using some flatter colors against the more complex underlying paint work to create shadow play that paradoxically rests on top of the layer underneath.
This to me is where the psychological implications are brought to light, I feel that my own preoccupations with what’s going on in society are naturally shared by many people, and the idea of social justice rests upon a framework of relationships, in a crowded world we need to push for our collective goals or we risk getting caught up in the swirling vortex of broader currents we cannot control, in other words activism is essential yet we must also go with the flow.
So this is the type of painting that upon completion inspires me to want to do another dozen or a hundred more because I feel like I am on to something, to any viewer it might be a useful statement or a nice piece of decorative art or a profound psychological commentary, but to me it is a piece of the puzzle and reminds me that I am on the right track, applying my time in the studio to the exploration of important questions and occasionally being rewarded by something that looks like a valuable answer.
What is art? Why?
I express through this painting a sense of intensity conveyed through a scenario of encroachment, perhaps there is irony in the idea that the ocean could feel crowded, what might be close quarters for people probably feels like safety in numbers to fish in a school, yet visually within these layers and near collisions the idea comes across that our interconnectedness does indeed have both positive and negative connotations, for the most part there is a joyful noise yet we often seek some respite from the constant rush and bustle, this dualistic sensibility makes it perplexing yet exuberantly sought after to dive in and revel in the depths of experience.
An enjoyable metaphor within this series of paintings, I feel that the containment offers plenty of tension and the story provides a release from that tension, a sense of optimism in an environment entangled in crosscurrents of conflict, the window of opportunity open to those creatures who respond immediately and decisively to make the leap, enter into the realm of risk, life or death, alive in the moment, immersed and cheek by jowl with their companions in tumultuous waves of probability.
So much more to do and enjoy in the studio! These pieces have taken on a theatrical element that I have enjoyed since traveling to Italy for two months back in 2005, I got immersed in library research, sketching architectural facades and creating some small layered works I referred to as “teatrini”
These little theatrical stage sets provide an arena for dramatic juxtaposition of figures and in this case I like the sense of containment, suggesting that the fish are confined to an aquarium, perhaps bringing to light the idea of their environment encroaching upon their lives due to the many forces at work, even though it is portrayed here as naturalistic.
I’m expanding visually on the themes from the Gone Fission series a year ago, delving into some new silhouettes, new saturated colors in media including inks as well as watercolors, and generally coming full circle to the point where I look forward to once again shooting photos of the works in progress to create more stop-motion video within this humble realm.
Another common thread within this series that continues to fascinate me is the intrigue of compositional tension, the lovely negative spaces defined by pointy fins and seductive curves, with each compositional study there is a joyful sense of blurring those boundaries between representation and abstraction, and I look forward to continuing with that as a recurring component of these multi-layered works.