It's A Sad and Beautiful World

"Transpercer le quotidien" (La Libre Belgique/Arts Libre n°42, 13 January 2010)

“It’s a sad and beautiful world.”

I don’t want to be the guy who tears apart a great phrase like this one for no-one’s benefit. I just find it’s true, and it points to the great and bottomless chasm of everyday experience that we like to spend our days filling up with sense. It’s like opening the paper and reading that in quantum physics, on a subatomic level, mass plays almost no role, it’s all about electrical charge. Only, the positive charge of protons and the negative charge of electrons cancel each other out, while their mass just accumulates, which is why we, each of us a lump of a trillion atoms, are not magnetic or electric but just very heavy. Well that’s how I understand it, at the same time I’m sure that what I often feel (apart from very heavy) is the buzz of all these contradictorily charged particles spinning around inside of me, and it feels very strange, like nothing’s stable. Am I making sense?

And so I paint for a living. I have very little to offer in the way of an explanation for the particular subjects I choose, or the way in which I depict them. I’m attached to certain subjects, to certain modes of representation. You can look at the way I grew up as a stranger in the countries where I lived and glean something from that, but I don’t find it explains much of anything anymore (I used to), it only made it that much easier for me to feel the alienation that was already there.

My favourite painters are probably Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Franz Kline. Maybe they have in common that their paintings are not about painting at all (I know they’re also all male and white). I for one am not crazy about painting, I’m just an image junky. And in my paintings, it’s always the image I’m concerned with, the paint is just a means. Which sometimes makes me feel like I wasn’t a real painter, like I didn’t have the thing, you know, the secret handshake. But I can’t help it, though I never could stand Van Gogh with his stupid ear.

Sometimes, people find my work too conservative and not personal enough, so I wonder whether I’m too conservative and not personal enough. The answer is that yes, I’m definitely conservative, which comes from being afraid of almost everything, but I try to remind myself to be as valiantly adventurous as at all possible, at least within my paintings, though of course I’m not getting any younger. But I’m not impersonal, and I don’t believe my paintings are. Rather, I hope they are subtle, if you see what I mean, and not even because I want them that way, but because they keep coming out that way. Every time I want to push one of them too far in one direction, there’s fifteen voices telling me to pull it back in some other direction, it’s like being thrown around on a raft in the ocean, exposed to the winds, the waves, the currents and undertows, so you get a little of each of those forces in every piece, if you look closely. And I believe I’ve had it with wanting to steer everything in a particular direction, toward either some constructed personality or an imagined safe haven of monolithic sense or whatever, those issues never really were mine, and I’ll gladly leave them for the funky Van Gogh scholars to debate. I’ll just try to let myself drift, much as it scares me, and be grateful if I get anything done at all. I’m letting myself go with the flow, if you will, taking a ride with those buzzing protons and electrons. And you know what, it’s both sad and beautiful.

David Russon




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