Noumenon (n. origins in Kantian philosophy): an object or event outside the detection of the senses; itself inaccessible to experience, to which a phenomenon is referred for the basis of its sense content.
My paintings are inspired by what I can best describe (in words) as the singular fleeting experience of ontological revelation―the sheer sublime wonder at the existence of our being―as well as the richly nuanced depths of our human spirit. Where is the limit of our human potential for understanding? This boundary is very important to me; resulting implications include a full spectrum of arrogance and humility in our human race. I am at peace with paradox and wonder.
The surfaces of my paintings reveal their history like geography, and I intend them to. The marks of paint sit in generations: some old and some young; some fresh, sharp, and ambitious; some dull, sloppy, and in decay; they rest frozen in time and space in relationship to one another. Some elements that were once dominant become faded, buried under dusty layers of glazes. Other elements having not yet fully materialized are left in a state of incompletion. Each act in my painting process is an identity claim in the journey to completion, simultaneously advancing toward finality and eliminating an infinite number of potentialities. I often plan my paintings multiple steps ahead―3, 4, or more―but reconsider my plan after each action and revise if necessary. I take pride in being highly sensitive and intimately responsive to the surfaces of my paintings. I consider the character of each individual mark and carefully amplify it in concert with others, allowing them opportunities to influence successive actions and ultimately, the finished painting. The countless smaller parts support the integrity of the whole, the totality, which must speak for itself in an instant.
Horizontal bands dominate the majority of my work. To me, the horizontal is voluntarily submissive, stable, and foundational for anything vertical to exist; it is of eternal character, incorruptibly calm, and of supreme power in contrast to the transience and defiant angst of verticals. I employ tape to make the long horizontal lines. They are not perfectly symmetrical and occasionally include disruptions in pattern. The oil paints are mixed with a variety of mediums and solvents to achieve different sheens. Mostly, the paint is applied with brushes, but occasionally I will use scrapers and palette knives, too, and sandpaper to remove layers and reveal peaks from buried marks. I glaze the entire surface of my paintings multiple times throughout the course of working by pouring viscous paint mixtures from jars onto the canvas and then wiping it with old shirts or rags, carefully manipulating the pigments into crevices and unifying the overall surface area. Oftentimes, multiple “color bands” are featured. These can be painted over the top layers or tape can be removed to reveal a color band from underneath. Sometimes a prominent color band gets buried in glazes and never resurfaces. I use these techniques in combination and to various degrees of complexity in seeking to create dialogues: figure and ground; object and background; surface and depth; universal and particular; time and space; appearance and truth; identity and environment.
In speaking to these themes, my paintings act as a metaphor for our individual human narratives and our collective existence.
©2018. All content and each image posted on this website is protected by copyright and may not be modified, reused, redistributed, downloaded, or otherwise used, in whole or in part, without the express written permission of the artist, Allen Smith.