Vermont-based, Galen Cheney
Painting is a sort of heartbreak. Initially there’s the seduction—the painting seems to paint itself and everything is working. Then, the veil slips and all the flaws are revealed, one by one, and I have to undo everything that I at first thought was so beautiful. This plays out again and again in each painting until something new pushes forward, hopefully stronger, stranger, unanticipated. And by flaws I don’t mean mistakes, for I think any strength my paintings may have is borne of the accumulation of shifts in direction, which manifest as surfaces that are built up, scraped off, carved into, and built up again. The painting is a record of its making.
That physicality is intrinsic to these process-driven works. I have long been drawn to abandoned city walls given over to graffiti as well as the peeling frescoes of Pompeii and ancient cave paintings. I relate to them both aesthetically as well as emotionally. I have been working on wooden panels for a few years because it is more like painting on a wall; I can lay plaster on it, carve into it, staple, and collage. The work I was doing previously more overtly related to contemporary graffiti. I have since stepped back from that, though I am still hooked on bright colors and the combination of slick and gritty surfaces. Formerly calligraphic elements have morphed into tangled tendrils of color that sometimes read as human limbs, braids, spines, geological forms, underwater tubers, or players at a cartoon carnival.
Mark by mark by mark I am compelled to get at some thing through painting which may very well be unattainable.
And honestly, I hope to never get there.