Milwaukee based painter Richard Galling's new series of work combines motifs and colors of popular culture and fashion with a semiotic approach to abstract painting. Visually the paintings are seductive but viewing them as purely decoration deflates their potential. Galling's stenciled patterns, repeated marks, and calculated color combinations form a fabric of the visual language of today. Each canvas forms a perspective that neither expresses nor represents properly. Instead the surfaces of the paintings are like a carefully considered range of colorful signifiers layering and colliding to form a bricolage of our visual culture. The paintings are intentionally devoid of personal emotion yet they are undoubtably a type of personal analysis or reflection. The work is a kind of reiteration of the appearance of 'appearance' in today's culture. The surplus and interchangeability of images and fashions has become an aesthetic onto itself. Born in the 1980's Galling has sought to contextualize his work within the very difficult terrain of pessimism and agnosticism that painting finds itself in today as a result of the vacuum left by the whirlwind of the 20th century.
For the last four years Los Angeles based painter Ian Hokin (CV) has been painting images that have sprung from his unconscious while either asleep or floating in sensory deprivation tanks. Hokin considers the imagery of the paintings to be self-portraits that manifest his own fears and anxieties. The imagery is cartoonish and yet disturbingly dark. Characters in the form of animals, scarecrows or bizarre anthropomorphic objects are depicted in hellish like nightmares or Kafkaesque scenes of purgatory. Reoccurring symbols like hats, frowns, eyes and colors structure the world of Hokin's paintings. These repeating tropes and Hokin's painting technique form a narrative linking the disparate characters and scenes together like a surrealistic children's book. The paintings are intense and visceral; Hokin's images have life to them and he wants to viewer to experience them in an intimate way. He says:
I have chosen to use painting as a medium because it has the potential to let a static image become animated. I find that painting can “haunt” the viewer in a way where the beginning and end are not perceivable. I strive for this in my work in order to have a direct visual communication with the viewer that is earnest and intimate; avoiding dissemination into language.
Both Galling and Hokin are of the same generation, yet each approaches painting in a radically different way achieving different ends. There is something more than a simple disparity and contemporaneousness between these two artists. Both are fighting the dissemination or dissipation of their work by the weight of art history and the desire to disassemble the visual into the conceptual. Why else paint?