I could tell you that I’ve always known about Mayan art.
I saw a fair amount of it while growing up and in various stages of schooling, and as someone who enthusiastically consumed world mythology as a child I could even tell you who Itzamna is. For a while I even researched Mayan images as part of an exploration of Native American arts and images. I’ve always really enjoyed it visually, and have seen/made connections to it and my own abstractions.
Lately though I am enthralled. As a result I am spending a lot of time time just exploring and looking at it.
Something about its graphic nature, thick lines recalling comics, and the carved and abstracted forms of the bodies. I feel a real kind of visual connection with how a lot of Mayan images are constructed, how they are built. I am starting to feel more and more that this is a connection I want to explore in my work.
In saying this, I am trying to be careful in my phrasing. I don’t want to suggest that I have some relationship with Mayan art, or with how Mayan artists thought or worked. I don’t. What I feel is a kind of relationship with the visual nature of the work. How it looks, how it is constructed, and how it feels.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want my paintings to do. How I want them to be situated in the world. My love of abstraction has always kept me painting just to paint, and focusing on formal considerations of an image. But that isn’t all that interests me. I worry at times that abstraction can get a bit too serious, a bit too full of itself. I’ve been thinking about a myriad of directions to go that might simultaneously lighten things up both for me and the viewer, and also allow me to explore more layers of meaning and imagery than pure abstraction.
In my paintings over the past few years there has been a lot of comic book and other graphic imagery re-worked and added into my images. I’m drawing more and more. I want to get more deliberate with that, more deliberate, more explicit, and more playful with it.
I could also tell you that I am enthralled with the work of Yuichi Yokoyama lately as well. Here again it is his play between graphic comic elements, painterliness, and totemic images that are capturing me. He is another marker for where I see myself heading these days.
I see Mayan art as a good kind of transitional role model right now. Somewhere between painting and drawing, abstraction and figuration. And I feel it leads me to a place where I can start exploring some new themes in my work. Themes that respond to the ideas of guardians and creatures, graphic totems, painted fetishes and amulets, the Roman Lares, the Scottish Brownie, and imagery of household gods and shrines.
This of course is to be revealed as everything in painting is; in the painting.
This painting, KamiSama Wakaru Darou?, is for me another step in this direction. Perhaps less than a step though. It is a loosening of my grip on the handlebars and contemplated heading in new directions.