The paintings and drawings gathered here partake of images as diverse as the activities in which individuals engage. Reading the images, seeing the thematic arc, and finding unifying elements place this work in much the same vein as the contemporary novel from which social values and norms may be parsed.
The very nature of power and control becomes a vehicle for layered images of narrative in “Judgment of Paris,” “Gertrude,” and “Lear.” Choices are made, judgments are imposed, and social norms and laws are broken for the sake of individual will. These paintings are dark and murky with progressive states which obscure and obliterate initial action. The mythic is repeated from one generation to the next, from one century to the next, from one culture to the next. The drive to power and rule appears governed by impulses common across borders, spanning millennia.
And what of love won and lost? The magical of “Midsummer, ” the surrender to the Hypnotist, and the simple donning of the wedding gown confection all bear witness to the collusion. We give our assent to the magical in hope of something finer, something transcendent. It is a leap of faith, an irrational suspension of reason for the promise of something glitteringly rewarding. In this ultimate state of infatuation, the friendship of dog floats by, couples are united, a warm palette infuses the pictorial space with charm.
Even the most marginalized figures form societies in which illusions of strength and skill are used to gain control and esteem. The carnies have their own labors and rewards and perspectives from which the ardent amusement-seeker can be excluded and objectified. The gaze, met or unmet, may be directed from either side of the booth. The isolation of the figure, the self-containment on individual panels, the centrality of focus, all compositional simplicity steers the viewer to a one-on-one relationship with the state of limbo in which the figure is caught. These transitional attitudes, moments between task and completion, hunger and satisfaction, longing and attainment, serve as a mirror of inner states denoted by services rendered or withheld.
The contrivances and conceits of the painted canvas are suspended for the drawing. The hand drops the brush and grasps the pigment in its clutch. A conduit from thought to paper, drawing gives voice to the most immediate experiences. From boxing and sumo to basketball and gambling, all manner of sport claim the ring to expose strength and rank and to order submission. The arena for competition illuminates a society ready to consume the glory and the mastery of sport as well as the pain and injury. With fluid ink or watery wash, the quickly moving mark dances around the figure and transforms the ordinary into a swift force.
An accumulation of mark and material, these works all stand to reflect aspects of society.
Jan Wurm, 2011