“People want all solutions and no clues. What I want is all clues and no solutions.”
Philip Marlow (The Singing Detective)
That we live within a context is obvious. Historical, social, cultural, technological and other contexts define us. In art the figure is within a context as well – often called the “figure ground” relationship. The ground is a context that can represent some, all or none of the contexts above or others yet unnamed. Sometimes these are contexts of color and form: Abstractions that come from mark making and the artist’s circumstance. Sometimes the ground is comprised of ghosts that appear through multiple drawings with manipulation of the ground: The paper, the media, the context.
In this body of work the nude figure is prominent on a ground alive with ghosts of earlier drawing, artifacts of mark making, palimpsests, and sometimes supercharged objects that come from our turbulent time.
The layering of images from multiple life drawing sessions are intended to evoke shades of memory, or as Saint Augustine put it “a present of things past, a present of things present and a present of things future.” This evocation could also provide the viewer a journey into the art making process: Drawing and painting from life, and through manipulating media and paper allowing the work to have a life of its own.
These works are for the most part multiple drawings from life with post-session studio alterations. The paper is prepared by staining, sanding and otherwise manipulating the surface with pigment and medium. Frequently the paper has been previously used for figures studies and earlier marks show through.
During the modeling session, the drawing proceeds quickly with applications of chalk, watercolor and medium in a search for color that defines form and light. The prepared paper has depth and flexibility and is forgiving of scratching, soaking and sanding, allowing the richness of form to emerge.
This process also allows the media to become a character that at times reveals and sometimes obscures imagery in a humorous way. As one curator wrote about my work: “[Beck’s] intelligent pictures are filled with wry commentary about our Postmodern era. His use of the recognizable image is comforting and inviting to the viewer, despite the bizarre content of the dramas portrayed.”