Portland Art Museum Talk

I’d like to start out talking about materials and technique. These paintings are on an aluminum composite material that has a core of plastic with outer layers of thin aluminum. This makes for a very thin and flat panel that almost references paper. The surface coating that I use is a mixture of acrylic resin, clay and pigment. This mixture is an updated version of the traditional compound used for water gilding made from burnishing clay, rabbit skin glue, and pigment. It has a consistency of heavy cream and is similar to other coatings that have a high solids content such as gesso. The reason I use it is because I can layer it, sand it, put it on with a brush or a knife and buff it to varying degree of polish. In my sculptures I’ve always tried to achieve surfaces that have depth and a kind of neutrality that helps to leave scale ambiguous


The sculptural quality of the surface- the layers that come together visibly-with seams; the incised line that is filled with another color and sanded connect these painting to the methods that I use in my 3 dimensional work. The thinness of the panel and the way the panel floats on the wall are two sculptural aspects that are important to me. 


This all brings me to the subject of space. I’ve been accused of being “space obsessed”. I am very interested in the way emotions are affected by specific aspects of the perception of space-monumental, cozy, long, narrow, high ceilinged, cramped.

I have always loved museums because they often present vast relatively empty spaces that evolve into smaller relatively empty spaces. In these empty spaces, objects are arranged on the walls and scattered about the floors in interesting arrangements. If you walk across this empty space and look at one of the objects you are often brought into an illusionary space with it’s own scale and rules of order. I often think of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia where you walk into a small room and are surprised to see an object hanging on the back of a door. Amazingly, you quickly see that this is a painting- a small Toulouse Lautrec- so, a door to a room that holds an object that miraculously describes another room in another time where there stands a women with red hair. 


My paintings in this show are held away from the wall. While they allude to imagined space, they are presented not as an illusionary window within the wall the way a painting with a traditional frame might be, but as self-conscious artifice. There are 2 layers of illusionary space in this painting. The broad simple illusion created by the receding white plane in the orange space and the more complicated spatial illusion created by the drawn lines on the white plane. This illusion is not for cleverness as in Escher’s hand drawing a hand,  but it is self-conscious in that its subject is the power of art to create illusions.


In locating yourself geographically people talk of triangulation. 2 points form a line -3 points place the line in space. In a similar way the 2 dimensions of this flat painting connect with the viewer to extend the illusionary space of the painting to the real space of the gallery and to place the viewer in that space.  The created space only exists as the viewer participates in the creation of the illusion. It is almost like connecting the dots. You connect the dots to form the space. It reflects back to the viewer because the viewer is the last dot. That’s what makes these spaces not quite so tidy. No one is denied entry. Bring a friend.            4.28.07    Gallery Talk- Jeff Kellar