Monday, March 6, 2017

Rapt from the Fickle to the Frail

This painting is pretty obviously a tip of the hat to Edgar Degas, the subject is my sister-in-law who has been dancing for most of her young life.  For Degas, the ballerinas may just have been a beautiful subject that allowed him to capture wonderful lines, dancing attire and movement in his pieces.  But a ballet is about the coordination of elements that must be synchronized harmoniously  in order for the piece to work.  The dancer acts as a visual element in the work of art that is developed by the director, and they play the same role in Degas' paintings.

On a formal level, this painting was about my role as a director of visual elements for all of my paintings, and if you look at the landscape of contemporary figurative painters, you see several that think of their work in cinematic terms, that have said if they didn't paint they would make films (notably Vincent Desiderio and Bo Bartlett).  For a narrative to emerge from a static image, the artist must imbue the scene with context, and part of that context is the history of painting itself.  That is why I find it fitting to reference artists that I revere or are more significant to society at large.  

I felt as if my paintings had become too busy and wanted to make something a little bit quieter, with a lot of resting space above the figures.  I also knew that I wanted to use the mirrors to distribute space in a more interesting way, so that most of the figure would be cut off at the shins, but the subject would not be.  I also like the fragmentation of the image that happens with the subtle shifts in the angles of the mirrors.  It was important to me that the photographer be visible, and I loved how distorted her figure appears, and it was also important that I appear, acting as a kind of director of the scene. Part of me wonders if this painting would have worked better as a simple composition with three figures, I essentially lost my confidence in it's simplicity and created a more complex digital collage, which marked the first time that I've really incorporated digital media into my process.

This was the original photograph, featuring (L to R) myself, my wife, and her sister.  Part of me wishes that I had just painted this scene, but I am happy with the final piece, so I don't question myself too much.  This painting took a really long time to paint, for several reasons, but mostly because I just wasn't confident in the simplicity.  I kept wanting to add more and more to it.  Having the completely blank wall from the top of the mirror to the beginning of the ceiling was very bizarre to me, but the funny thing is, having all of that blank space is part of the reason that I wanted to make this painting in the first place.  

This is basically the image that i worked from, changing much of the information to fit my aesthetic sensibilities.  This painting was started in November 2015 and not completed until January 2017.  In addition to the reasons stated above, I also had other projects that took importance to me, this eventually just became a fixture in my studio, which I had to work around.  Eventually I decided that I was relatively close to finishing it, and just needed to dive in and complete it.  I still feel like there are some things about it that I'd like to adjust, but for the most part i'm happy with it, either way I learned a lot while making it.

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