Thursday Thoughts: New Artist’s Statement

Words affect me in powerful ways, and in much of my work I seek to create an aesthetic experience that parallels and amplifies the impressions stimulated by language. I often use the term “illumination” to describe the conceptual goals of my work. “Illumination” evokes both the past tradition of illuminated manuscripts and the idea of clarification or enlightenmentconnotations which align with my interest in expanding on the experience of literary text.

My main strategy of art-making is drawing with graphite and ink (which has come to mean all kinds of liquid materials including traditional sumi, coffee, tea, and watercolor). Conceptually, I appreciate using media and tools connected to the writing process in order to create images that expand the experience of reading into the realm of the visual. Aesthetically, my drawings are carefully designed and rendered, and they explore formal concerns in order to create images that have a sense of austerity, power, and grandeur. Formally, I frequently explore notions of contrast between flatness and depth, pattern and texture, boldness and subtlety, locus and emptiness, orb and grid. Ultimately, I am interested in poetic response to word-generated experience and see formal language as one path to that end.

Many of my drawings are a direct response to literary experience, as is the case with Nimrod’s Blueprint, and Babel. Others make use of literary references to enfold complexity into more personal responses, as is the case with Mist, Ash, Dust and O Miserable Cities of Designing Men.

One of the primary tensions in my work that I seek to resolve is the struggle between my desire for aesthetic vulnerability and my compulsion for order. I rely on rigorous geometric design as a gateway past my uncertainty and as a method to contain the unbridled possibilities of my materials. I feel closest to this navigation between obsessive control and longing for release in my drawings The Desert and The Plains of Shinar.

Currently, my practice exists as purely visual response, with the words of others existing only in the mental part of my process. I seek a more balanced dialogue between the two and to explore the liminal space between word and image. As the traditional boundaries between artistic disciplines dissolve, I am pursuing a more complex and adequate expression for contemporary literary experience.

While I have no interest in repeating the past, I do admire the art and methods of artists like Mondrian, Gottlieb, Rothko, and Newman, both for their commitment to the rigorous philosophical foundation of their work and the power and singularity of their images. The contemporary artist Makoto Fujimura has greatly shaped my thinking, particularly through his collaborative QU4RTETS project. His paintings probe the boundaries between past and present, literary and visual, and the spiritual and material.

In short, through formal questioning I seek to develop a visual vocabulary which I deploy in calculated structures as a form of poetic response to word-based experience.

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Filed under Art, Illumination, Jacob Rowan Studios, Thursday Thoughts

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