Studio Visit: David Lloyd, The Quantum Mechanics of Painting…
By Gary Brewer
“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
“The trickster’s function is to break taboos, create mischief, stir things up. In the end, the trickster gives people what they want, some sort of freedom.”
David Lloyd’s paintings seem to communicate a similar sentiment to Alice’s question. It is an existential riddle without an answer, the trickster making mischief of our hallowed sense of a fixed identity. Much like Proteus ‘the god of elusive sea change,’ David’s paintings are shape-shifters eluding any easy description or category.
David has an unending curiosity with how paintings work. He is a scientist probing the edge of the universe trying to open up a hole into an alternate universe where up is down and inside is out. It is an obsession, one that causes him to upend his approach to painting, reversing course and seeing if something unexpected can be added to shift the work in a surprising way. Ultimately it is a search for freedom, an exploration of limitless possibilities in a world without fixed rules.
“When one walks out into the world there are sidewalks that are fractured from tree roots breaking up the concrete, there is a flat wall next to it, people are walking around, every kind of biomorphic form possible is interacting with the environment. Many painters come into the studio and cancel out most of that visual information to focus on a few things. I want to bring it all into my work, to filter it through the painting process and resolve into a fully realized painting.”
An omnivore absorbing the visual information of this world and using myriad formal approaches to explore the potential that painting has to morph and hybridize itself. David’s paintings are born out of the specific environmental milieu of Los Angeles: from Ding Bats to Boomerangs and Ziggurats, the eclectic stylistic elasticity of Los Angeles’s architectural vernacular has had an influence on shaping David’s sensibility. Surf culture plays a role as well; the pinstripes of surfboard design fused with some riffs off of Frank Stella and shapes reminiscent of surfboards populate his canvases. It is a protean appetite for the visual stimulation of life’s vast canvas that David processes and funnels into his polymorphic paintings.
Looking together at a new painting that David has just started, he spoke a bit about how he begins a piece. “On this painting I glued together two 4×8 foot sheets of plywood. I begin by drawing some arcs and angles along the edge. When I have found a dialogue where the external shapes and lines interact with the central area in a way that I am happy with then I use a jig saw to cut out the shape. In this painting I want the central area to open up into an interior space of renaissance depth, to challenge the idea of shaped paintings as objects.” It is a contradictory impulse that fuels the very start of the process in this work. As we looked at it and thought about where he may go, I noted that the edge of his eccentric shape was almost a narrative or at least time based. As opposed to the neutrality of a square or a rectangle the play at the edge caused one to engage with the shapes, it was as though one were taking a walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood, a visual ‘flaneur’ into parts unknown.
I asked if he had a sense of narrative or an expressionistic avenue that he was trying to communicate, David responded, “It is not an emotional expression or a narrative that I am trying to achieve, but a formal approach to painting. I use formal devices to find new ways to put a painting together. I am interested in pushing the boundaries of what is possible and challenging myself.” It is as though there is a language of ‘invention’ that he is after, a desire to add something to the language of painting, an aspiration to free himself from self imposed constraints and to open an endless series of doors where the search is its own reward.
The history of art is a protean dream, a surreal kaleidoscope of changing perspectives of meaning and representation. David has positioned himself as a ‘shape shifter’ in an effort to reinvent the form from scratch with each new painting that he begins. He said of other painters, “ Many artists are content with the approach they take and that may work for them, but I am never satisfied. Every time I finish a work I feel I could have done better and seek another solution to the problem.”
It is the deep resolve of his paintings that has always been such an impressive feat, no matter how far out on a limb he goes with his experimental approach to his work, they are always fully realized paintings. The color chords singing in deeply felt visual music, the dialogue between the various forms; a stained passage working against a hard edge geometric form, a thread like filament of paint dripped connecting one passage to another, an illusionistic shadow adding volume to an otherwise flat passage, all disparate elements cajoled into communicating and interacting within the specific logic of his paintings. He warps the rules and bends them back onto themselves, reconciling potential chaos into melodious chords.
The ’structural glue’ that binds the different parts together may be the core elemental power in David’s work, it is the stuff of the mind holding this illusion we call reality together, the binding agent that makes us perceive the world as whole.
Like a trickster David Lloyd creates worlds, each one different, exploring the unlimited freedom of paintings manifold possibilities.