Serpents and Sediments // 2018
Diploma Exhibition at Haidgasse Vienna
These paintings began as reflections on my relationship to the study of biology. To me figurative painting and biology are connected in the subtle way these to disciplins tell stories. I find it very hard not to perceive my surrounding world through stories and histories. Any object or living thing can be seen as a cue for a story. Anything that is, has a history and a future. To communicate this history, be it through words or through images, is to tell a story. One of the main lessons I learnt as a student of biology is that it is useful to look at anything connected to life from an evolutionary perspective. This point of view always includes the object’s or creature’s natural history. This natural history includes the story of the land it evolved in, how it came into being and the lifestyle of its forbears. It also includes the history of other living things interacting with it and its predecessors, the behaviour and adaptations of its prey, those that prey upon it and/or those who live in symbiosis with it. The images I create don’t only originate in such stories, but their development suggests colonies of sedentary polyps, that spread like entangled hypha until they cover the whole canvas. My fascination with painting lies in this sprawling growth, when the elements of a painting begin to spur each other’s evolution by interacting with one another. In this moment, the painting seems like something alive. My two fascinations, painting and biology, fuse to incorporate my general interest in living and lifelike things. In “staying with the trouble” Donna Haraway stresses the importance of the speculative, -the “maybe”, for living and dying well on a damaged planet. Because it matters what stories make worlds and what worlds make stories we have to find new stories. We need speculative fabulations that can serve as models to allow thoughts in which the landscapes and the plants, worms, hypha that hold them together are not merely inanimate props, sceneries or resources. We need them to be protagonists with whom we can empathize with and whose importance we can discover, examine and recognize. I hope my paintings can do that, to a certain extent at least. For me, painting is an inquisitive process. Painting commands a special kind of seeing. It demands a perception that is searching, that ideally amounts to a seeing that is not necessarily akin to the visionary, but more like that of a scientist who seeks to grasp the story behind what is naturally and easily there to be seen.