Patrick Higgins | On the Green Seesaw
August 17 - September 29, 2018
Artist Talk: Saturday, September 8 at 1 PM
Opening reception for members and guests: Friday, August 17
In this new body of work, Patrick Higgins creates images with the weight and presence of lifelike portraits that confuse and confound. Working from collaged found imagery and photographed references, the paintings of On the Green Seesaw crop images and announce themselves as invented fiction with exaggerated colours, contrasting rendering techniques, and altered perspectives.
The long-standing challenge for my painting practice has been to create images with the weight and presence of a lifelike, realist depiction but also might confuse or confound. Representational clarity is replaced with implication and ambiguity. As a starting point for these paintings, I've either photographed references or collected found imagery. I often prefer to select images that depict the everyday and the universal; people waiting at a bus stop, people congregating in the kitchen at a social event, etc. The photos have usually depicted small groups of people arranged in ambiguous clusters. The specific narrative or activity depicted in the photos should be mysterious and suggestive. These are primarily descriptive, documentary artifacts without concern for fashion or timeliness. I see them as quiet intermissions within a larger historical narrative inaccessible to the viewer.
A few years ago, I decided to split my practice into two distinct parts; I pursue my love of representational illusion and the technical challenges it presents with a focus on portraiture. I also now strive toward a more unpredictable body of work where I feel freed up to experiment with figurative painting in response to the above mentioned challenge. I've recently started cropping multiple image sources together with a more collage-like sensibility. I am striving to make paintings that amount to an arena of implication and suggestion where formal elements dominate over narrative or conceptual conceits. I am more confidently integrating elements that announce the painting as an invented fiction. Exaggerated colours, contrasting rendered forms with flat, graphic passages, further explorations with multiple image sources and altering perspective.
While I may start with a photo that is compelling to me for it's suggestive quality or might spur in me a feeling or recall of some forgotten memory; my process compels me to compromise my initial relationship to an image. It is important for me to encourage a sense of uncertainty or disorientation within my work. I promptly begin emptying images of their original context. I crop out typical points of focus (like a person's face). I'll also impose a contrast or dialogue within the picture plane between multiple disparate images or elements such as forms related more to graphic design along-side figurative representation. A new encounter is orchestrated for the viewer from the fragmented and dispossessed imagery layered into the work. I may rework passages several times, work-in a dominant compositional element only to paint over it later on. The process to a finished painting is experimental and is a requisite attitude that I maintain throughout production. I want the sense of uncertainty and disorientation to come from both ends; mine as well as the viewer's.
My images could be unsettling or ambiguous. I see that they might provoke a feeling of anticipation, like something is about to touch off or that one has arrived late to a scene and is now implicated in something outside of them. My paintings should present a space that feels simultaneously familiar and just out of reach.