statement

As an observationally based painter, I maintain two seemingly disparate bodies of work: toy tableaux still lifes and alla prima plein air paintings. Although the conceptual motivations between the two differ, they are both linked by an intense curiosity on process, materials, and the desire to capture light. Evolving in tandem for the last several years, I have found that the push and pull between the two approaches both informs, as well as invigorates, one another.

 

Toys, in all truthfulness, facilitated my imagination and desire to create at an early age. The act of play was a catalyst for me to pursue the arts and instilled in me an enthusiasm that has consistently fueled my work to this day. With the toy tableaux paintings, I can honor the origin of my creative process, while infusing the seemingly playful narratives with self-reflection and commentary on current social issues.

 

When designing a new painting for this body of work, I begin to assemble a still life in a child-like manner with objects associated with playtime. Each arrangement is governed by a simple interest in color and form, as well as the narrative or concept I wish to address. Once I am satisfied with the formal arrangement and narrative of each diorama, I begin the process of building the image with paint. I always seek to create immersive paintings that emphasize light and the materiality of the depicted objects. In particular, plastic toys present a unique and fascinating technical dilemma, in which the colors of these forms are often just beyond the gamut of archival pigments. Having technical challenges such as this ensures that the process is exciting and ever-evolving.

 

Aside from the technical stimulation, the paintings offer the opportunity for my own observances of the world to be subtly expressed. With toys used as symbols in the constructed narratives, I can interweave commentary on topics ranging from environmental concerns, gun rights, native activism, and even art criticism. It is my hope that the lighthearted veneer entices the viewer to look beyond the surface, and acknowledge the weighty concept that informed each painting.

 

To complement the obsessive, slow-paced, nature of my toy tableaux still lifes, the practice of alla prima plein air painting forces me to work with a sense of urgency. Each small field study is a depiction of a specific time and place, and how I perceived those passing moments both visually and emotionally. Every painting is an adventure in battling the elements, simplifying the complexity of nature, and faithfully recording color relationships to describe an accurate sense of light. These compositions evolve organically, without premeditation or any conceptual agenda. Consequently, working this way yields to a sincerity in the paintings that is difficult to achieve otherwise. Although this process is in stark contrast to my toy tableaux paintings, it is critical in energizing my practice as a realist painter by honing my eye, and allowing me to play with the application of paint.

© 2020 by Aaron Pickens

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