Refractions by Gegam Kacherian
Tufenkian Fine Arts
through November 16th
Artist talk October 28th 2-4pm
By Constance Mallinson
Since 2006 Gegam Kacherian’s paintings might best be described as a journey into a hallucinogenic or dreamlike whirlwind. Dynamic compositions with allusions to Western art history from the Baroque to Surrealism incorporate a vast array of finely detailed, photo inspired representational images, folk art decorative motifs, and swirling, psychedelia inspired gestural “mini paintings”, often set within vibrant landscapes. Portraits of family and friends freely intermingle with animals, birds, reptiles, and a wide range of architecture from ancient Armenian churches to vast urban skylines. Linear narratives are abandoned in Kacherian’s painted world. Instead, the borders between fantasy and reality, magic and observable fact, the cosmic and personal, the past and present, the superficial and the deep, are breached, creating multiple metaphors for the complex experience of contemporary life.
In this latest series, initiated by a residency in Holland in 2014 that inspired an inquiry into differences and similarities of time and location, Kacherian has complicated the compositional and formal approaches of his previous paintings on canvas to further amplify the consideration of dualities and paradoxes always foremost in his work. Moving from pure painting, he now employs a process of collaging from his collection of photographs, re-photographing and Photoshopping the assembled images, then after printing the photo images on reflective Mylar, he adds paint. Kacherian who has commented that he wants to see “how far from painting one can go and still be a painting”, takes viewers into the eye of that ever threatening storm.
In Refractions spatial congruities are endlessly subverted, perspectives defy fixed points and recognizable forms split only to rematerialize elsewhere. Exquisite painted “doodles” are applied, gyrating and dancing across the surface, or in some cases, augmenting the figurative elements or enlivening broad expanses of rich jewel-like color. Exotic flora and fauna, bisected fragments of architecture, human nudes/portraits and atmospheric effects play hide and seek in these wildly polychromed, often glittery, spaces. Painted areas can be difficult to differentiate from reproductions. Abstraction becomes figuration and figuration dissolves into prismatic painted puddles. Refracting stained glass windows, kaleidoscopes, Cubist painting, Op Art, Kandinsky’s early abstractions, the Abstract Surrealists like Gorky and Matta, all come to mind. History, referenced from sources as varied as Armenian manuscripts and ancient artforms, collides and interacts with the products and potentialities of computer technology and contemporary images. The effects are mesmerizing, especially when, in catching a fleeting glimpse of oneself in the reflective Mylar, one realizes he/she is part of this fluctuating vision.
With Refractions Kacherian has also expanded his long running conversation with the photograph; instead of simply source material as in the earlier works on canvas, the photograph has been elevated to an essential component at times indistinguishable from the painted image. Photography and painting have historically maintained an antagonistic relationship, with the emergence of photo realist painting in the 1960’s attempting to harmonize the photographer’s ease in creating compelling images with a painter’s inimitable touch. The mediums, however, were never confused for each other. Fast forward to the present where no certainties whatsoever exist; defined art categories, gender, nationalities, predictable seasons, political protocols are constantly shifting and morphing. Much critical verbiage is expended trying to comprehend these monumental changes.
Kacherian has described these newer hybridizations of painting and photography as “trying to translate ideas of differences”—for example, day v. night, here v. there. Interpreting his intentions as a dualistic contest, however, is to not grasp the larger implications of these artworks. Questions of difference and contrast are certainly engaged throughout, particularly when trying to discern pictorial genres, fixed identities, locations, and perspectives. In Kacherian these elements veer and shift imparting a sense of instability and precarity. Refractions dramatically visualizes a world transforming right before us.
TUFENKIAN FINE ARTS
216 S. Louise St.
Glendale, CA 91205
Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Friday 11:00 to 5:00
Saturdays by appointment