Index of Personal Visual Effects: 0001 - Broken Structures

The first in a series about the imagery in my visual work. Basically it's me explaining myself to myself.

Old, heavy things that might drift away

I like broken architecture and abstract structural forms. Currently, these appear as unfolding, origami-like shapes that often look like they acknowledge the presence of gravity or perspective, but then don’t go through with it. It’s not that they don’t like gravity. (I mean, it is a bully.) It’s just that a drawing of a building or 3d object on paper is still neither of those things no matter how accurate or detailed. Artists clarified this decades (even centuries) ago. These forms are used in my paintings and drawings, as well as in my design work.

The world in which these objects exist is flat space, and they behave as such. They are sarcastic signifiers of occupiable space. Permeable. Unfixed. Without weight.

There was a point while I was getting my BA in Art History at the University of Oregon, that I became really fascinated with architectural floorplans. Specifically those of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals. I dug the history. But I also thought it was really funny that these edifices to belief and ideology, that took hundreds of years to build, loads of money, power and probably some slave labor, were flatten and reduced to little line drawings in the margins of my textbook. 

They were of course serving the purpose of articulating the structural placement of rib vaulting and buttress support that were their hallmarks. I started drawing the floor plans quite a bit. Sketching them on the edges of my notes. Some of the shapes reminded me of geometric brand logos.

After a while I started improvising my own. They started to break a part and get simplified. Sometimes they got more complicated. Some involved themselves with other imagery or shapes. I eventually worked some of these ideas into some pretty good drawings and paintings. And some pretty awful ones (no you can’t see those - I painted over them).

Eventually they became something different altogether. Less about their historical connection to religion or belief (though these have manifested themselves in different forms I’ll get to later) and more about ambient or psychological spaces that house ideas or language.

Everyone noticed but me, 2011, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 19” x 19” Gallery view from my 2011 solo exhibition Modified Structures. The painting really exemplifies the merging of cathedral inspired structural references and layered elements. The “paper” shapes on the wall were the first time these appeared in this form.

Based on a quick flip through my sketchbooks from the last couple years, they are still around. Still sharing surface area with other elements. They are becoming more and more defined by their relationship to other pictures or objects, and serve a similar function as my use of text - a signifier, taken out of context, repurposed, as entropy takes over. They don’t feel like they hold any signifigance on their own.

Spaces can have confusing internal lives. Just like us.

Going through my images and trying to construct a timeline for this post (even though this was not chronological) was helpful. I was surprised to see some of my structures are much older than I actually remember. They conjure some old vibes. I guess I’m still working through some deconstruction of belief in my own life. The structures I grew up with no longer mean the same thing they once did. They don’t even mean the same thing they did ten years ago.

I’m writing about this now because I’ve been making these moves for such a long time that I was starting to forget why. Maybe it’s ok to not know. I’ve not made much outside my sketchbook for quite a while. But I feel the internal “windup” happening. I think you have to stop and ask why you do something if you want to push your work forward. Does the work stay relevant if the idea, meaning, or feeling behind an object changes? What if the formal aspect of the image does not change?

This probably doesn’t need an answer. But I think it’s important to keep asking that question, if only to provide a framework for examining your own work.

Tell me if you think otherwise in the comments. Or just tell me something.

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