Mechant Loup, oil on panel, 17″ X 18″, 2018
I paint from my experience of the world. That is to say, I paint from the random chaotic collisions of experience, memory, association, and imagination which make up an interior life. Painting itself doesn’t do much to clarify anything, but it lets me have fun with the wreckage.
My work grows from and refers to ongoing conversations with the work of other painters – Beckmann, Hartley, Guston (especially his very early work), Hartigan, Hodgkins, Picasso and Picabia, as well as photographers like Atget, Man Ray, Kertesz, Groover and above all, Friedlander. As a painter, David Hockney and I don’t have a lot to talk about, but to me, his best work was as the photographer/artist of the (mostly forgotten) joiner photographs – which gave me a new perspective in both photography and painting.
As famous as many of these names are, none on this list swam in the main current of their times – but these are the artists I return to, learn from, argue with and joke about. Only artists really appreciate the ubiquity of puns, quotes and jokes in art. I hold that that is what artists (and jazz musicians) really live for: the hope of meeting someone who actually gets (and laughs at) your grade school puns, obscure thefts, dirty rhymes and mockery. That’s the important part.
I have always been particularly fascinated by iconic images: symbols, the Fayuum portraits, Ikons, Tarot and Loteria cards, cave paintings, illustrations from children’s encyclopedias, rebuses and pictographs – pictorial elements that ‘read’ at a glance, punch above their weight, yet remain stubbornly ambiguous, enigmatic and finally impenetrable (a good description of Beckmann, now that I think about it).
In my experience there is no such thing as ‘evolution’ or ‘progression’. I’ve been circling the same preoccupations from the very first pictures I ever made. Approaching a motif with a new style or different media is like choosing to construct a doghouse with either a hammer or a saw – I’m forced to make different choices but I’m still making a doghouse. I am not interested in pictorial or formal strategies as ends in themselves. I am only interested in what I can do with them.
For me a picture works when it suddenly becomes more than the sum of its parts, when it becomes a mystery even to me. That’s what I work for.
Thanks for looking.
“You see, I look at my paintings, speculate about them. They baffle me, too. That’s all I’m painting for.” – Philip Guston