We live in an age of discontent. A time of disequilibrium and disconnect between our desire for stillness and the roiling state of the earth. More than before, the atmosphere has become troubled and our expectations of what is possible to achieve unsettled.
In Atmospheres, my latest series of paintings, I have shifted my attention to the remarkable tension that hangs between our inner and outer realities between light and dark, optimism and struggle, motion and quiet. I wanted to pursue the microscopic elements of the earth and compare it to something vast and luminous.
Several years ago, I first saw J.W. Turner’s studio works – unfinished, raw and absolutely moving –while visiting the National Gallery of London. “Atmosphere is my style,” Turner once told the critic John Ruskin. Turner always worked between imagination and reality. What he taught me was to push my painting to become more suggestive than descriptive. Evocation is the territory my paintings occupy. I do not set out to paint the sky. I’m not interested in painting landscapes.
Meaning in a painting occurs when the concrete and ambiguous are allowed to exist simultaneously. The paint – how it is applied, how it dries, how it moves across the canvas – is as much my subject as any notion of landscape. In using a combination of techniques of thick and thin, the hidden and revealed, opacity and translucency, the qualities of paint are pushed forward to the viewer. I dig through layers of paint. Once I dig it’s possible to see veils of dried paint. They might resemble the weathered earth or rusting steel. It might appear that the environment has been worn away. The reading depends on the viewer. To be sure, the atmosphere has radically shifted – a massive decomposition, a sinkhole, new weather opening up.
In this series, atmosphere can be the surprising juxtaposition of a dull, grey mist and a scarred earth. One doesn’t obliterate the other – they cohabitate. They present together in a seamless way – at other times, in a jarring complexity.
In painting, like all poetic expression, meaning occurs somewhere between what is invented and what is invited. Just as poetry is about the ways that words resonate together, my painting offers a vibration between foreground and background, upper and lower. The difference is transcribed by a horizon line: a bridge, a cliff, the middle ground. This is the point where the mind can be still.