Notes on my Painting Practice
Notes on my Painting and Process:
“My early paintings were primarily concerned with finding a new way of fusing world mythological symbolism, traditional tribal forms and gothic iconography with abstraction. Immersing myself in the study of comparative religion and early art history, I was seeking to reconcile the still-potent forms of earlier civilizations mythic forms with the open free-flowing abstractions of mid to late modernism. I was looking for a way to reconcile the ancient, mythological unity with the new modern freedoms without discrediting either. I sought to re-invigorate abstract painting with a heroic and transcendent spirit by reconnecting it to earlier, potent mythic iconography.
My paintings from the period of 1993 to 2003 are compositions that fuse abstraction and figuration in a deliberately loose, gestural application, or alternate between the two modes. At times my figures were based on classical representations from the European Renaissance or from earlier gothic figures found in medieval painted manuscripts and cathedral sculpture, as well as reference to even earlier tribal African, Oceanic, and the earliest European painted forms. These include abstracted animals, transformed religious iconography, archaic symbols, and shamanic forms. The paintings of this period are a record of my attempts to essentially take the universal hero-myth and make it contemporary and personal.”
“The paintings of 1997-1999 were informed primarily by the following areas: my studies in the symbolism of metaphysics and medieval European Christianity, my apprenticeship in a Gothic-Revival stained glass painting studio, study in Zen Buddhist painting, and my interest in the paintings of German Expressionism of the 1930’s. The paint handling was deliberately heavy-handed and I experimented with the surface addition of materials such as tar, molded ceramics, modeling paste, gold leaf, and carved plywood. I approached the painting as a tablet upon which to inscribe, eschewing illusionism. This eventually led to more primitivist influenced images that also combined East asian painting approaches, and mask imagery. I called my approach ‘Mytho-Expressionism’.”
After returning from travels throughout Europe in 2000, the influence of classical figuration arose in my works, but was quickly replaced by more abstract imagery and the repeating motifs of a sphere and a serpent. These in turn evolved to become a labyrinthian line and a circular vortex. The vortex became more resolved into a spiral, then the spiral flowered into a blossom. From there my form resolved itself into a geometric mandala. The labyrinth became a more considered, delicately drawn line. The forms of figure and heads, so central earlier, vanished altogether. I view these paintings as a record of a rebirth of sorts. Each image is a step in that progression to greater awareness, out from my own limited ideas that existed solely inside my concepts and myths, and into a greater realm of sensation and feeling derived from direct engagement with the reality of the earth, the cosmos, and nature.”
“From 2000 to 2003 I worked mainly in acrylics in my NY City loft, and worked with commercial and artist-grade paint in combination. Previous to that I worked in oils and enamels, but the fumes were not conducive and I changed to low-odor acrylics. The quick drying time meant a speed was given to execution, and thus this progression of ideas was worked out in rapid succession with ranging results. This was a fertile and experimental time.”
“The last of these works was made in 2003 before I departed NYC for road travels to experience and study the great natural wonders throughout the U.S., later settling in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. My painting practice has thus developed into one that no longer needs the architecture of the narrative image, but distilled its relationship to luminous and transcendent qualities found in nature and light itself. By this time I had moved away from the vocabularies of my earlier, lyrical Romanticism into a more dispassionate approach to painting.
My current process seeks to minimize expressionist histrionics in order to create and enlarge an emotional feeling derived from purely visual sensation. Phenomenology has now replaced self-analysis and personal fixation. To this end, the mechanisms I work with primarily are color, blackness, greyness, reflection and refraction, light, movement, fluidity, temperature, visual rhythm, close scrutiny of nature, and materiality itself. I feel my art has, as it were, passed through the ‘mythopoetic’ and hot expressionism of my early years to make room and delve into a deeper empathy and vision of those miraculous, living forms of the Earth, the source itself for such mythic inspiration.“
In the absence of a studio while traveling, and often finding myself in the field, I increasingly turned to photography and sketching as a way to process ideas and notate/record new subject matter, my content being discovered out in the natural world in changing light. In my process, I use memory, sketches, notes, photographic documents, and watercolors started out on my hikes as departure points for more involved works. However I have found that simply translating photos or sketches renders them stillborn as art. I thus insist the studio piece evolve organically, only using the original idea as a kernel to start the discovery process inherent in painting.
This point has marked a new, more mature phase in my practice. I now draw my subject matter for my paintings from both the process of working in studio, a close study of light and color, and also my observations of natural formations. Such sources include clouds, birds, mountains, trees and roots, rivers, waves and waterfalls, rocks, boulders and riverstones, the moon, and the changing weather.
My current works focus on a less narrative mode and instead attempt to depict primacy, and my own sense of awe. This is pursued with the intention of communicating our universes’ great interconnectedness and our own interconnection within it.”