A Moderate Bliss
This is a daunting task. That this barrage of thought, sensation and memory I mistake for a ‘self’ be called upon to provide clarity and coherence to this process seems absurd, fluid and transitory. Ever present is the risk that I might slip into solipsism and pretension. The conditions are conducive to this state; the protracted periods of relative isolation in the studio, the late nights, waking up in the studio only to be confronted by the cause of elation, frustration, despair and purpose. Oh dear, it seems I have failed already.
My activities in the studio over the past twelve months have been determined by a particular, yet undefined trajectory. This seems contradictory, yet I have no desire to encumber this trajectory with precise definition. The work in this show is merely a reflection of where I am on this beaten, familiar path and the concerns that drive, haunt, and shame me. This is not a culmination, there is no dogmatic fixed narrative to guide us up the mountain toward a great cathartic resolution, upon which, lesson learnt, we may return to our lives and quest for certainty. The lesson, it seems, is that there is no lesson, that we dwell in ambiguity. Ambiguity and contradiction are central themes in the work: the desire is to elicit more than one interpretation from the viewer; to see and understand that it’s not a matter of EITHER/OR, but rather BOTH/AND.
Some of the subject matter in the work will seem to indicate social or class commentary. This is not a direct intention. If there is criticism of the status quo then the finger points inwards as much as outwards. Only through sheer self-delusion and complacent ignorance is it possible to assert that the colour of your skin does not matter in this country. To be a white male is to be the inheritor and beneficiary of privilege. Complicit at birth, complicit in a system that excludes and degrades. Violence, deprivation and injustice ravage this continent, infect my consciousness and sometimes affect the character of the work. This is not explicit, I prefer to hope that class, as a descriptor for relative comfort, is the filter and decoy for an acute discomfort.
Also present is humour, albeit black, which, when coupled with a desire to express grandeur, beauty and drama, conspire to impress and entertain you. Studio practice is necessary to achieve this and when asked about inspiration, that seemingly elusive and obscure quality, the best I can offer is to show up at the studio, to be present, to allow the time and space necessary to explore ideas through process and imagination. I like to believe that I have a good work ethic, but most likely there is a tendency to be obsessive. Long hours, late nights, and weekends in the studio reflect a need to feel purposeful in a world fraught with uncertainty.
I have no desire through the work to impose my thoughts and concerns on the viewer, I do not seek to control what the viewer might, if anything take from the work. The only hope is that the work elicits some pleasure or concern, contemplation or interruption, spark some memory or familiarity in you. That fragments and collisions of narrative might present possibilities that exist in memory or potential. As John Updike, the premier writer of suburban life, once noted: ‘Each day we wake up slightly altered and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time’.
Press release courtesy THK Gallery. Text: Andrew Kayser, June 2019.