Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

updated-nward-private-message-3

The nude figure is such a dominant subject in the arts. It’s hard to forget that humans, in general, are sex obsessed perverts. But hopefully we can set that aside for a minute and start this post off with a little look into one of the subtler aspects of this imagery. Clothes offer such obvious and immediate signals about the time, the place, the status, even the mood of the people wearing them. That is pretty common knowledge, and it can be difficult to look at the image of a clothed person without quickly forming some judgement about what their clothes say (or what they may be trying to say with their clothes). If we strip away the clothes, the viewer is forced to look elsewhere in a piece to find meaning. Also, humans, in general, are sex obsessed perverts that like to sneak a peek at the naughty bits.

This has always been one of my favorite parts of painting nudes (and similarly portraits). Since the context that is normally established by the subject’s clothes is missing from these images, I can start to explore more indirect ways of framing the stories told by my paintings.

Like a lot of people, I have a romantic nostalgia for the aesthetics of older technology. From the soft warm look of old film photos, to the ubiquitous sound of a guitar through a tube amp pushed to its limit, it’s hard to dismiss the beauty imposed by the analog processes of the past. That said, I am not foolish enough to overlook the signatures left by more current technologies. The noise in an image of an older digital camera, or that overly saturated, overly sharp look that people seem to love, or love to hate. The day will come when we look back fondly on the aesthetics of this era, and in the meantime, playing with these aesthetics feels like a great way to more quietly give a place and time to a composition.

So, I have always tried to find ways to make my paintings mimic, or mock, the marks left by todays tools. Over sharp, over saturated video, and photos are one of the unique looks of today. It grabs attention, it looks incredible at first glance; and I would bet that a lot of the same photographers that romanticize the cheap film of the past, probably view this aesthetic as in poor taste (at best). Honestly, those contrasting feelings are exactly why I have always thought this was a good place to play. So I looked for ways to bring some of that look into my paintings. If you look at some of my older paintings, the skin tones are vivid. They are mixed to feel real, but brighter, without using any earth tones. The look is three dimensional, but flat at the same time. I used multiple reference images with different focal points. So nothing is ever really out of focus, nothing falls back, everything is painted sharply.

Now that I have found some more effective ways to bring these ideas into my paintings, I am ready to admit that a lot of my previous attempts flat out failed. I just don’t think anyone really saw what I was trying to do, I don’t think the paintings were really communicating this connection effectively.

As I have been approaching the glitch paintings, finding ways to use the marks left by the different tools used to create the source images has been one of the biggest challenges. One painting is created from high resolution photos and live observation, and one is created from a glitchy, compressed text message image taken from a cell phone; the amount of information available in these two sources is worlds apart. So decisions must be made. Details have to be invented for the low resolution file, and obliterated in the other. Somehow a link has to be formed between these two, very different tools, so that the resulting diptych works together as a single composition.

And now I am trying to make similar connections, except using glitchy video files as a reference.

We have all seen the marks of highly compressed digital video files. The blocky fragmentation of images, the stuttering of quick movements, shapes exploding and merging when frames are dropped. Videos collect scars and the ghosts of past lives remain visible as files are repeatedly sent and saved. The degradation is not as graceful as old film, but the artifacts that develop as digital files reach the end of their useful lives can still be beautiful.

For a long time, I have been thinking about a series of paintings that would explore a single moment, and all the possibilities for the next moment. A series of images that would depict the hugely different effects and subtly different reactions possible at any moment in time between two people. The idea has tantalized me for a while, but I couldn’t find a way to make it visually interesting, until I stumbled on to this idea of slowly degrading image files. Now I have something that helps anchor the idea in time, and allows for very similar images, of very similar situations, to slowly degrade into nothingness.

For now, I only have the first frame to show you. A painting in progress that will become the center panel for this triptych. The best case scenario in this imagined situation.

vid-glitch-panel-1-nick-ward-painting-wip

And a little peak into one of the possible moments to follow.

vid-glitch-panel-2

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life (2)

Two panels, each 30″ x 40″ – oil on panel

nick-ward_portrait-from-web-portrait-from-life-1

I never really envisioned that I would end up a realist painter.

If you had asked 20 year old me, “what do you think of realist paintings?” My response would have probably been something along the lines of, “what is the point of doing something worse, that I camera can do better and faster?”

But here I am, painting portraits that can really be described no other way. That is not to say that I went quietly down this path. I have spent a lot more time and energy coming up with ways to make my paintings more graphic, less realistic, than I would ever spend focusing on learning traditional technique.

Lately, I have been struggling with this. Feeling a bit lost with where to take my work, feeling somewhat frustrated with the paintings I have been putting out. Not to say that I don’t like the pieces that I have done recently, but it has been a while since I have finished a painting, stepped back and felt satisfied. It has been a while since I stepped back and said, “yeah, that’s it.”

Now I am posting a piece that I really am satisfied with. A piece that I am truly excited about. A piece that is, by far, the most realistic painting I have ever done.

I finally decided to take my own advice. To get out of my own way and let the painting decide how it needed to be rendered. Instead of forcing my ideas about what makes an interesting painting, onto pieces that those ideas do not make sense for.

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life #1

Portrait From Web, Portrait From Life #1 Nick Ward

I have a bad habit of exploring ideas out loud. As I am thinking my way through problems, I will ask questions, spit out ideas, request feedback on half baked theories and generally allow most any thought that passes through my head to escape as sound. In the world of bad habits (even in my own world of bad habit), this one is fairly benign but, it does have a way of confusing, annoying and generally making me look foolish to anyone with the poor fortune of being within earshot at one of these moments.

I feel like I have allowed this habit to infect my writing lately as I have been publicly working my way through the pixelated private message paintings. In other words, it has been helpful to send my ideas out into the world, to receive the confused glances that come with bad ones, along with the excitement and support that come back from the good ones but, I expect that everyone is just about ready for me to shut up about it all ready.

With that in mind, I am sending my latest study for this series to a show at the Dorchester Art Project.

Private Message Study #2

I am sending my piece to this show and I am telling you not to worry, you are not going to this show to see my latest exploration into this idea, you are going to DAP to see the other artists. You are going here to marvel at latest group of amazingly talented artists coattails that I have somehow managed to ride.

Here are a few teaser pieces from the show, keep reading below for official press release and dates.

Steven Carvalho "Sunday Morning"
_E_Petitti - The Liu-Casco Theory About the Loss of the Golden Pear (version4) - Drawing
Retrofit Painting by Thomas Willis

BETWEEN YOU AND ME: RESIDENT GROUP SHOW

Exhibition: August 14­ – September 18

Artist talks: September 12

Closing Reception: September 18

Dorchester Art Project

1486 Dorchester Ave Boston

The Dorchester Art Project is pleased to present its inaugural exhibition, B?etween You and Me: Resident Group Show. C?urated from work produced by DAP resident artists, B?etween You and Me locates the tenuous threads that bind together artists working within communal space.

In the front gallery, photographs consider how individuals relate to their worlds and constructed tableaus explore otherworldly scenes. Paintings of faces fall apart into pixelated squares, mimicking the failure of cellular communication between people, while in other works, intertwined figures emerge from abstraction. In the back gallery, a site­specific installation of sculptures that reference painting recreates the artist’s studio within the gallery space. Collages made from phone books and other paper detritus sourced directly from the Dorchester environment are as much about absence of information and individuals as their presence. Across the paintings, sculptures, photographs and drawings, there is a commonality of artists engaged in critical discourse and thinking as the artists interpret their environments and interact with the surrounding communities.

Operating in the space formerly occupied by the Howard Art Project, the Dorchester Art Project is dedicated to fostering a collaborative environment for critical discourse and creative engagement for emerging artists. Located in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, DAP provides studio and communal space to artists, while programming our gallery space with regular exhibitions of critically engaged, emerging local artists, as well as artist talks and lectures. DAP aims to engage a wide audience, and bridge the gap between urban residents and the critical art establishment.

Join and share the event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/494095904089321/