Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Space of Memory

Speed of Life
Gregg Chadwick
Speed of Life
65"x49" oil on linen
private collection San Francisco

Just months before his death, I saw the painter RB Kitaj after a UCLA sponsored presentation he gave at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Kitaj saw a card gripped in my hand of my painting, A Walk with Ganesh, and he started our brief conversation saying, “Is that for me? I would like to have that.” I handed him the card and watched him examine the image of the painting in his hands, and then my face as we talked. Moved by our discussion, I went home and painted Kitaj as he appeared that evening; white beard, roaring voice, stern focus, like a prophet calling figurative artists, in particular, to “paint their worlds.”

My world today is a fusion of the present moment, tempered by the memory of the past, and thrust into the future by the motion of time. Travels since childhood have taken me from the U.S. to Asia to Australia to Europe and back, again and again. These wanderings provide a series of spaces that appear within my paintings.

My painting process is grounded in traditional materials. I start with primed linen canvas made in Belgium, as it has been done for centuries. For each painting I grind some of my pigments into linseed oil to make oil colors. As I use these methods, I am physically engaged in the now, pulling moments from our flux of time and space. The figures in my paintings express what it means to be alive in the mixing and crossing of the 21st century, here in the U.S. and across the globe.

After I finished my Master’s Degree in Fine Art at NYU, I moved for a time to London to seek out the spaces of RB Kitaj’s paintings and the light of JMW Turner. In a small studio at the Royal College of Art I painted in a space in which Kitaj also had painted. The window beside my easel opened to a vast Turnerian sky. Past, present and future fused into the now. Inspiration was made current by the very space in which I stood in that moment, with such awareness and clarity. Today in my studio in Santa Monica, as I press into the future, that moment echoes and beckons and urges me on.

Gregg Chadwick
September 2008

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