‘Spirit in the Woods’, ‘Bedford and Higley,’ and ’Study of Drei Dinge’ After Thomas Scheibitz,’ are round paintings that take influence from an exhibition of Sienese paintings at the National Gallery in London in 2016.
Experiencing egg tempera in person for the first time, the exhibition influenced me for a few reasons. Firstly, I realized that these world-famous paintings had a jewel-like surface that cannot be experienced through reproductions in books or digital media. Secondly, the paintings have round frames which contrast with dominant rectangular frames, made ubiquitous through digital screens. Thirdly, the scenes are composed of architectural dwellings that unfold like playful mazes, keeping my eye searching for whats hidden behind and beneath. Lastly, I project parts of myself onto the characters in these scenes, as if each character represents a single trait, characteristic, attribute, or role, that together make up a greater whole of the human experience.
Framed in circles, arches, and flowers, the paintings imitate Sienese altarpieces which do not always adhere to the rectangular frame. For me, the round frame reboots my experience of painting, in that it feels new to paint on a surface with the illusion of an expanding edge. Painting attempts to break free from its geometric cage just by being round. In terms of framing, the paintings ask why does a painting need to be rectangular, especially among ubiquitous digital screens?
Innocuously shaped, the approachable, round paintings suggest a level of generosity to the viewer through charm instead of challenge. The imagery within the paintings takes influence from the polished, jewel-like surface of egg tempera, a traditional medium comprising of egg yolk and pigment that precedes oil paint. Patches of salmon, emerald, and warm yellow ochres form a mosaic of castles, cars, and forests. A white picket fence encloses a hose-like creature that writhes on a lawn. Naked, skeletal trees stretch outward in a barren lot. A haloed carrot appears above a fortress in the manner that a haloed dove appears in a Giotto painting. Life emerges from above and beneath landscapes that are nearly desolate, but potentially nourishing.