I’m often told that my work looks photographic, though my aim has never been to make photorealistic paintings. My work is the product of a combination of direct observation, photo-reference, memory and imagination. What truly fascinates me is light. The inherent qualities of oil paint are perfectly suited to its reproduction. If my work tends toward a high degree of realism, it’s merely a byproduct of trying to literally “shed light on something”.
Many years ago as a student, I was confronted by several contradictions in what I was taught. Most of my instructors came of age in the 1950s and were adherents of Abstract Expressionism, where the surface of the work was the only true reality. Any attempt at depiction seemed a hopelessly outmoded form of expression. Yet concurrently, I was drawing from the figure every day, attempting to master the very time-honored tradition they had forsworn. That mixed message I received always disturbed me and I suppose my work has been an attempt at reconciling two opposing philosophies.
I found what I hoped to be an answer many years ago with pure light, for it allowed me to explore abstraction and realism simultaneously. So I painted pure sunlight, at first streaming into my apartment, creating arbitrary geometric forms that I could render within a very naturalistic framework. I loved the play of representation versus abstraction within the same painting, for it allowed me a foot in both art historical camps. Soon, by chance, objects began to creep into my empty room compositions. I reveled in depicting their textures with oil paint, as much as any student of the still life. But I always tried to follow a self-imposed rule: would my painting still make an interesting design if devoid of anything recognizable?
It’s been many years since those confused student days, and the memory of that youthful angst merely brings a smile now. Though my fascination with pure light has never wavered over the last 30 years, my subject matter has changed. In the last few years I’ve been focusing on smaller, more intimate tableaus with an emphasis on play. This is not out of a sense of nostalgia or longing to return to childhood, but rather a fascination with those initial creative urges we experience as children; impulses that seem so present and alive even in the most sophisticated works of art. We are never so in the moment as when we are children. It has always been my aim to be as present and in the moment when an initial idea strikes and craft that into something that connects and resonates within the viewer as much as it does in me.
With each painting I learn something new—not just about my craft, but myself. Most importantly, I’ve learned that life itself, not just art, is about duality and contradiction. Sensuality and spirituality, thinking and feeling, light and dark, transitory and timeless; these are the opposite poles that inform our existence. A flower fades in the late afternoon light. Even the sun that illuminates it will one day sputter and die. Yet paradoxically, this moment, this one miraculous confluence of events brings together something so simple and beautiful that it seems timeless.