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Details (Painterly Chance)

The detail has come to take a crucial role in the understanding, advertisement, and documentation of paintings in recent years. For almost every public display, advertised by the show card, a detail of a painting is chosen instead of an image of the whole. Upon arrival at many shows, I have been disappointed when I am not presented with the intense compositions promised in the promotion.

Print and digital media – catalogues, art history books, magazines, and websites – in an effort to reproduce the “live” viewing experience, show more detail shots of an artwork than shots of the whole. The intent is to give the viewer (or reader) the virtual sensation of being able to step up close and take in a painting from three to five inches away. Details allow the viewer to temporarily break from the complexity of viewing the whole, and alleviate pressures of understanding a larger content or meaning. Having been exposed to more details than whole “actual” images in my study of Art History and painting, I have developed a preference for the latter.

The detail presents a dramatic, partitioned view of physical construction and is usually chosen for the unexpected happenings in a medium. These areas are sometimes called “Happy Accidents” or areas of “Painterly Chance.” Additionally, the accumulation of details can be seen as a sure sign of success for an artist. The detail is only awarded when work is photographed for publication or advertisement.

In this recent body of work I am interested in making only details. I intend for them to pull the viewer into the sensuous investigation found in the published details, while not burdening him or her with the understanding of a larger idea. The details allow the viewer a temporary vacation from seeing the whole image, as mountainous landscapes of drips, caverns created by massive gestures, and rivers of spills and stains allow the eye to sink into a rest of unburdened sensation.

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