Studio Visit: Andy Moses, Ecstatic Resonance
“I sing the body electric… I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea… As I see my soul reflected in nature…”
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
By Gary Brewer
Every nerve fiber resonates to the rhythms of nature; the infinite space of the horizon, or the sparkling sunlight on the sea in autumn. The exhilaration of riding waves, waves of energy that have traveled vast distances through the open ocean, to arrive at the shore. When surfing, the body works in concert with natural systems to cut a line through the water, accelerating, turning and using one’s weight and balance to interact with the energy of the sea. Surfing is a skill learned in somatic, nerve sensitive responses to instantaneous shifts and changes in the wave’s movement. Time slows as the wave envelopes you; seconds are like minutes as one races within its watery chambers.
How does one find a sublime expression, as a painter, to reflect the ecstatic experience of the body at it’s most vividly alive?
Andy Moses has spent years experimenting and exploring to find a process-oriented approach that brings this intensity and immediacy to the experience of painting. It may takes days, weeks or a month to prepare for a painting; experimenting like an alchemist to learn about the interaction of pigments, colors, and viscosities, to arrive at the foreknowledge needed to create one of his rich, vibrant paintings.
Once the research is complete and the painting is ready to be realized, it is an exhilarating experience making the work; decisions are made in split seconds. “When I am painting, every nerve fiber in my body is alive; time slows. I am fully engaged with decisions that have to be made in seconds. What I can see happening in the painting two seconds in, will be completely different seven seconds later. The pouring and manipulating of paint is an experience that makes me feel fully alive. I try to move seamlessly through the process. I am trying to create an experience that stands apart from me; I want to make paintings that take you on a journey.”
Andy grew up in Santa Monica Canyon; the view from his home was of the ocean, the sky, and the horizon. The feeling of infinite space and the sublime light of the sea and sky left a deep impression that would influence the aesthetic arc of his development as an artist. In his youth, surfing was everything to him; the intensity and immediacy of somatic responses to split-second stimuli would also find its way into his work. He said of this, “When I went to Cal Arts the teachers discouraged painting, the emphasis was on conceptual art, performance and installation work, they felt that painting was dead. I was working in avant-garde film and performance. In my last year of school I decided to experiment with painting; the moment I touched the material there was an immediate chemical reaction. I felt the same ecstatic experience and excitement that I feel in surfing. I moved to New York in 1980 where there was an explosion of painting going on. My first job was as a studio assistant to Pat Steir; her work along with Schnabel, Salle and Basquiat was roaring onto the world stage. It was the first time that I saw the work of Kiefer, Polke, and Richter as well; these painters had a big impact on me. The historic abstraction of artists like Rothko and Pollock also influenced my development; especially Pollock’s “Autumn Rhythm” at the Metropolitan; the movement and space that he created, his novel use of paint, and the way that he was allowing a process-oriented manipulation of the materials to realize his paintings, affected me deeply. I began my first series of paintings, mixing oil paint with water. I worked in black and white and painted flat on the floor. These works developed and organically evolved through the decades to the paintings I am now making.”
Andy spoke about movement as a philosophical statement; that in dynamic movement it becomes harder to fix meaning. He spoke of his work as anti-didactic; that the efforts to explain and identify meaning are harder to pin down within space in motion. It is a reflection of Andy’s physical embrace of the complexity of this living universe of which we are a part. Systems that unfold in deep time, geological movement, the evolution of life and the emergence of consciousness are all mysteries – that despite our best theories at explaining them – elude concrete answers. “ When I was growing up, our home was filled with paintings. We had a Sam Francis painting and my Dad said of it “No one knows how he makes them.” This really captured my imagination – the idea of something that was a secret, that was unknown. I became interested in alchemy and I think of artists as alchemists. We manipulate matter and turn it into something that is living – we embed thought and memory into the materials. Great paintings have an immediate impact – they capture your imagination and take you on a journey; I strive to create that in my paintings.”
His paintings are both abstract and imagistic – they record the process of their own creation – but also suggest myriad worlds of meaning. The complexity that Andy has mastered, his ability to find fresh and novel approaches within the method of pouring and moving paint, has given him the ability to create works that look like lava flows, or the atmosphere of another planet. They evoke cosmic and celestial images, Tantric symbols of the primordial egg; the rich intense ribbons of chromatic movement fixed in time also suggest psychedelic experiences and universal consciousness. These are masterful works that express philosophical ideas of deep time; a spiritual sense of the wonder of nature, and the mystery of existence.
“I am in a conversation with the history of painting, from the chromatic atmospheric colors of Titian to the luminous light and rich palette of Turner, through Pollock to the present. I want to leave something, to make a statement and leave a memory trace of my ideas about painting and reflect the world I live in. I am also seeking those moments of rapture, when every nerve ending in my body is alive and all of the synapses are firing. To be fully engaged; this is what I strive to do in my work.”
Painting is a protean medium. It is supple and yields its fluid quicksilver qualities to the mercurial properties of the mind and of our emotions. In its dexterity artists through the ages have found ways to create metaphors that speak of their times. In the eggshell quietude one finds in the work of the early Northern Renaissance painters, to the bold painterly subjectivity of Rembrandt, and forward, to the search for speed and immediacy, that reflected the pace of a rapidly changing world in Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings; artists have sought and found an emotional tone that captures the feeling of the times in which they live.
Andy Moses creates paintings in a world where fractals speak of the mirroring of systems from the microcosm to the macrocosm; of theories of multiple universes and reality as a holographic projection from the edge of the universe. His paintings delight in the intrinsic mysteries of painting’s ability to reflect one’s time and capture an essential aspect of the artist’s individual soul. His works transport us on flows of ideas embedded in brilliant color chords that carry us to the edge of the known universe.
Our place in the universal scheme of things is mysterious; we know that the best knowledge that we have today will be revised and altered through new discoveries that will come tomorrow. These paintings, in whose movement and dynamism free the mind to explore the contours of the unknown and to revel in chromatic music, express an ecstatic embrace of the body electric.
Inaugural show at J.D. Malat Gallery, London in June
Group show at William Turner in the Fall
Solo show next spring at William Turner
Exhibition at Melissa Morgan next spring