Artist Statement

For the past twenty years, my painting practice has been a multidisciplinary one, grounded in the tradition of painting as representation.  In almost all cases, the subjects of my paintings have existed as three-dimensional models, from the papier-mache tubes that gave rise to the Form series, to the geometric paper constructions of The Constructs, to the architectural foam-core models of The City, to the painted plaster casts of the recent paintings.

The objects that appear in the paintings are clearly handmade, and serve a dual purpose.  On one hand, they imbue the work with ‘believability.’ The objects are painted in a representational manner, with a focus on the development of the picture’s pictorial space.  The space is intended to be illusionary, intended to fool.  But even more importantly, the flaws and defects of the models are painted with veracity, from the dog-eared corners of the Constructs to the absurd depth of the ‘deep end’ in The Pool (from The City).  It is through these imperfections that the believability of the objects in the paintings is based – perfect things do not exist, and so the representation of imperfect things speaks to truth and veracity.

On the other hand, the use of models as subject serves to unsettle the viewer’s relationship to the work by underlining the painting as a reliable narrator.  In some cases, as with The Forms and The Constructs, the viewer must wrestle with the unknowability of the subject.  In The City,  the models, most of which are grounded in the artist’s ‘real’ memories from childhood, are clearly a combination of fact and fiction.  But which is which?  These depicted objects seem real, yet with no easily accessible ‘real world’ counterpart, the purpose of the artist, and the meaning of the painting, come into play.  It is a combination of the fantastic and the absurd that drives me as a painter, in both my own work and in my engagement with the discipline as a whole.

My current work continues along these lines of inquiry.  These paintings are based on painted plaster casts and serve as vehicles to exploit the interplay between traditional genres of painting, such as still-life and landscape painting, and modern investigations into surface and pictorial space.  In Fire on Greyback Mountain, the painting and sculptural elements that have remained separate in my work are brought together in a fractured narrative, incorporating such disparate elements as the artist’s childhood in a small, Canadian town, the failed Japanese fire-bombing campaign of North America during World War II, and the landscape painters of the mid-nineteenth century Barbizon School.

Richard Perkins