STATEMENT FOR WYNICK/TUCK GALLERY EXHIBITION: FEBRUARY 1999
Begun in 1997 and completed in early 1999, the
twenty paintings in this new series of still lifes continue my ongoing
research into three areas central to my studio interests: subject matter,
pictorial form and systems of recording. Subject matter in my work has
varied significantly over the years and ranges from culturally layered
paintings like SCAR,
LONG ISLAND SUNSET and
paintings that appear to be rather more devoid of cultural loading.
Similarly, the paintings usually employ conventions of pictorial structuring that either synthesize or draw attention to the differences between pre-twentieth century and Modernist interests. A painting likeNUCLEAR FEVER, for example, attempts to draw the viewer’s attention to eighteenth century Dutch painting, while a painting like SUDDEN MOVEMENTS, for example, references post-Cubist beliefs. Finally, my paintings have always attempted to describe the appearance of things by using efficient, quiet and, frankly, polite systems of notation.
Started not long after the completion of a large series of paintings titled La Disposición del Mercado—a central component in the 1994 retrospective exhibition of my work at Mexico City’s Museo de Arte Moderno—these new paintings attempt, in a more aggressive way than in any body of my work to date, to find meaning in images that appear to be devoid of artistic intervention. Found in usually overlooked places—studios, workshops, garages, etc.—these images of tools, discarded paint tubes and other bric-a-brac so central to everyday life seem simply to have been happened upon rather than arranged. However, I believe an argument can be found beneath this veneer of banality and casualness for assigning meaning to ordinary and usually overlooked aspects of daily life.
The directness, symmetry and spatial flatness of many of these painting--DEAN'S CABINET, ARTIST'S PALETTE II, CHRISTINE'S TABLE, CRAIG'S SHELF, for example--proclaim the Modernist tradition and reflect the structuring conventions with which I have been wrestling since the 1960s. I’ve presented the objects and situations in these twenty “found” still lifes with a certain formality to suggest that they have, in fact, been deliberately chosen rather than accidentally stumbled upon or randomly selected.
These images make a case for finding worth and significance in the ordinary, the modest, the everyday. At the same time, the labour intensiveness of the paintings argues the value of perseverance, craft and discipline. These works pay homage to other artists, past and present, who have quietly recorded arrangements of everyday objects, and they reveal a new development of my career-long interest in recording the appearance of familiar objects, materials, surfaces and colours.
John Hall, January 1999
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico