Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco, 2013
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce Continuous Wave, an exhibition of new paintings by Ian Kimmerly. Kimmerly boldly embraces the disparate by integrating various styles and techniques into each painting. Softly blurred photorealistic figures slip between abstract gestures while gleaming, thickly impastoed streaks of paint are counterbalanced by bright, geometric pops of color. Though the final paintings depend on a number of different factors, his process typically involves the same set of steps: after priming the canvas with an acrylic glaze and placing the figures, Kimmerly begins adding generous layers of paint that he manipulates and scrapes away while still wet. Figures subsequently get moved around and incorporated into the surrounding ground while he builds up his painting’s surfaces.
Within the tensions generated between nonobjective and illusory space, notes of Abstract Expressionism, Bay Area Expressionists such as Richard Diebenkorn and Elmer Bischoff, Gerhard Richter, and John Singer Sargent are evident. As accumulations of styles and influences—and ideas and experiences—Kimmerly’s paintings look almost as if “they’re being constructed in front of you. You can see the seams holding them together and, at the same time, you can also see them falling apart. I like when you can see how something is built. There’s a sense of tenuousness about it.” With respect to his fragmented, deconstructed aesthetic Kimmerly explains: “I try to ask questions about reality through my paintings. What is actually holding everything together? To have an image that’s in the process of breaking apart and reforming before your eyes touches upon that question.”
One of the earliest inspirations for this body of work can be traced back to a personal project to convert old, VHS home movies to DVD. Initially intrigued by distortions that occasionally occurred during the conversion process, Kimmerly began to ask himself what the goals of such projects were and whether or not technology somehow assists with or alters memory. Do we, for instance, only remember certain incidents because a parent took a video or picture of them? Such questions led Kimmerly to consider how modern innovations, particularly social media, and the ulterior motives of mediating technologies, such as touchscreens and rotating billboards, have altered not only how we think and remember, but also how we interact and exist.
Kimmerly’s paintings explore these issues by attempting to both embody the complexity of human consciousness and reflect how modern “advancements” have rendered it increasingly fractured and disoriented. To create paintings that are as complicated as those experiences we live, Kimmerly often uses images of people and objects cast as reflections in windows, or will mix artificial elements (such as mannequins) with landscapes to create a subtle sense of dissonance.
Figures both “real” and artificial are awash in a kind of visual static that produces a sense of distance between viewer and subjects: “I’m trying to show a struggle to have a close relationships with the subjects,” Kimmerly explains, “there’s always a distancing. There are things you’re fighting against to see what’s happening.”
Water Logic (2012) exemplifies the struggle to know, grasp, and connect—to reconcile the self with the subjects and setting. Inspired by an image in the pages of a vintage National Geographic, Water Logic depicts a family soaking in a Finnish hot spring. Each person’s face is hazy though particularized, while pools of simmering mineral waters masquerading as abstract gestures flow over and around their bodies. Water is, of course, something that you have to look into, through, and depending on its opacity, beyond. To know what is on the other side you have to acutely engage the mind and imagination. Water is also a unifying and harmonizing force that envelopes its bathers both and aligns them with the rhythm of its currents. By using abstraction as an analogue to water, Kimmerly asks us to consider how art and, in particular, painting, can help return us to the real. His painting—themselves material, tactile objects—embody and activate sensory experiences that force us to see the natural symmetry that binds all together.