Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Sean Alward: DARK SALON

27 January 2022 through 6 March 2022
Organized by Christopher Brayshaw and Steven Tong

Get the key,
turn on the light,
and see the

I began the first painting in this series as a tongue-in-cheek attempt to visualize a distant family member with no known photographs documenting their appearance. I knew where they came from, where they ended up, but little of their life other than their diet: potatoes. So, I painted an arrangement of potatoes on my studio table, avoiding portraiture in favour of still-life as a means of showing one thing via another, conscious that the original subject could never be depicted accurately anyway and thereby allowing metaphor to manifest in unexpected ways. In terms of process, my goal was to be as direct as possible, painting from life without photographic mediation. I wanted a kind of blunt, un-inflected naturalism, similar to that in use around the time photography first appeared (early-mid 19th century), before Impressionism and Modernism. I wanted any sense of inner-life in the subjects to come from an optical experience of their material appearance rather than embellishments of technique such as exaggerated colour or obviously gestural paint application. I also wanted to invoke a consideration of how the physical properties of the subjects were culturally and metaphorically resonant:

potatoes: you are what you eat, subterranean...

butter: solar energy store, fat, oil paint...

copper: distillation, electricity, currency, economy...

wooden sticks: folk art, the woods...

and so on...

Sean Alward is an artist based in Vancouver. His paintings explore the intersection of materials and historical consciousness. He received his MFA from the University of British Columbia and BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He has exhibited across Canada and in the U.S., most recently at the Art Gallery at Evergreen, WAAP Projects Vancouver/Vacation Gallery New York, AHVA Gallery at UBC, Surrey Art Gallery, and the Nanaimo Art Gallery. He has published writing in Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Border Crossings.


Image: Sean Alward, Wavelength, oil on linen, 2021