JEFF GAMBILL

Artist Statement – Slap

 

What is it with memories?  Why do we remember some things and not others?  I have often worked from my memories over the years, challenged by finding ways to bring these elusive and fading thoughts to canvas.  In the works for this exhibition, the memories themselves tend to be of rather mundane subjects from childhood.  It is interesting to me that they have remained with me for so long.  Why have these seemingly so ordinary of moments stayed with me for so many years, while many memories that, on the surface, would seem much more important, have long ago slipped away? 


So, okay, the memories have stuck around, so what do I do with them, so how do I translate them into something visually interesting and meaningful?  In the studio, I set out to find ways to reinterpret what it is I am remembering and let it live its own life.   As an artist, I think it is important to let go of what something means to you and find a shared meaning.   You might want to strip down an idea, or you might need to add to it, or select just a small portion, whatever it takes to allow the idea to have meaning for others.   I believe it is at this point that an artist makes a shift away from self-absorption and makes work that connects with others successfully.  Ultimately, what these subjects might originally have meant to me is no longer important.  Instead, what they become about in the viewer’s eyes, whatever that interpretation might be, is what gives them their significance.


So, here, an encounter with a potato farmer is interpreted with potato prints, and the experience of seeing my first snowfall and making my first snowman is described in a way suggestive of childhood scratch art.  Running away from home and hiding in a nearby forest is shown as a dense cluster of branching shapes against a twilight sky.  (My misadventure came to a quick end as darkness fell.)  An old block and tackle abandoned in the woods becomes a surrealist portrait.  I was once punished with a sharp slap on my hand when I decided to sprinkle a rabbit in its hutch while watering flowers in a garden.  A misdirected dart finds a perfect trajectory . . . to impale itself in my foot.  My grandfather’s cigar and walking sticks emerge from darkness, the sticks “whittled” from the surrounding paint.  And, the goofy eye of a beloved stuffed dog stares at me through the rain, silently meeting its demise, soaked and abandoned, outside in a downpour.


As I said, little things, mostly banal moments, but they have somehow stuck with me.  They would have little meaning to others.  But, with a little prodding and a fresh outlook, some fresh paint, they become something new.


And, thank you to the artist Sheldon Figoten for allowing me to paint in circles.