Wonderland

With this series of representational paintings, I have created a droll simulacrum of a natural wonderland. As in a dreamy Maxfield Parrish painting or as in a dainty confection by Thomas Kinkaid, in this wonderland of mine, pretty things abound. Delicious treats are to be had for the taking, and the people who populate this land are at worst, if ever, only vaguely troubled. These paintings serve as an exploration into how an adult may wish to perceive life as if he were ten years old  and could satisfy every desire in spite of what nature or simple rationality would dictate.

Yet, unlike in a perfect utopia, a spirit of beautiful unease is what I am interested in creating in the ‘Wonderland’ paintings. I carefully gauge how far I should push toward unpleasantness and still maintain a sense of levity. My choices of what I wish to paint constitute seemingly benign ‘natural’ settings in which oblivious delight can exist. In this way, my aesthetic choices mirror the sanitizing vision of a marketeer, in which an ordered vision of nature is carefully fabricated and presented as marvellously ready for consumption.  How is nature conceived of, presented and ultimately (and mostly unseen) mined for use? The paintings present themselves as a wry allusion to what I see as the messy business of supplying our almost limitless desires.

Consider the painting ‘Flowers’. There is a backdrop of giant flowers arranged into a cliff-face and across it flows a sumptuous waterfall. Above is a shimmering snowbound mountain in a candy colored dawn sky. The setting is utopian–paradisiacal even–and would seem to require intensive maintenance. Six pairs of lightly clad lovers are arrayed in the middle and foreground in a rather flattened space that makes them all seem equidistant and thus each singularly equivalent in importance. They are like ciphers in a narrative about perfect romantic love and serve to signify the virtue of such narcissistic bliss. All are young and attractive, and they point toward a life of complete ease and mutual pleasure. The vacant simplicity of such a vision is emphasized by a fabulous buffet of tantalizing candy and roasted meats. The food constitutes a simplified diet which to many may seem to be an ideal diet for romance. Yet it could be said that it is also an unnatural diet and ideal for bodily corruption. The banquet is both wonderful and horrifying at the same time.

In all my paintings, I employ a variety of styles to lock various bits of landscape, still-life and figure painting together into fanciful fabrications. Through a calibrated lack of cohesiveness, personal painting style is superseded by the notion of selection. The paintings are essentially  constructs designed to percolate ideas in the viewer’s mind. Yet the craft of painting remains  important to the work. To counter their somewhat frivolous and nonsensical nature, I find the images benefit from the pedigree of fine painting . Thus, I deliberately  seek to enlist the seductive power of skillfully applied paint to make  my images maximally compelling.