In my work I want to expand the boundaries of seeing and painting. Though it is an accepted notion that photography has usurped the painter’s function of seeing, and indeed this was one of the undergirding rationales for the development of modern painting, when I look at the world what I see is quite different from what photography shows. Photography to me is flat and filmlike, with the shallowness of its surface built into its visual quality. It is like looking at the surface of a puddle rather than at the world it reflects. In order to more strongly express what I see, I have moved my painting off the two-dimensional picture plane into three dimensions. At first this was inspired by the thick impastos of artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, which seemed to me to make the people and objects they painted more solid and tangible. I was also influenced by Frank Stella’s abstract shaped and sculptural paintings. Why should a painting be limited by the rectangular picture plane and by the flat surface? I was struck by the fact that Stella for a long time treated his three dimensional works as extensions of painting rather than as sculptures. I thought that Stella’s ideas could be applied to representational painting as well as abstract. As I got further along in this exploration, I found that certain of what I considered important formal ideas in landscape painting could be achieved in new ways through this sculptural approach. Over time my work has gotten more fully three dimensional, moving from relief through deeper relief to completely in-the-round, with some works mounted on the wall and some on pedestals.
Further, it aspires to move, to reflect the dynamic space of current society. The shape of each sculpture itself is a gesture in space. Its irregular edges are meant to suggest space sweeping through it from outside; it attempts to connect with infinity rather than be confined in a frame-like rectangle. This is a new approach to representational painting, moving it partly off the flat wall and invigorating it. As an example, I think that unlike most paintings at the Guggenheim Museum, which look distinctly uncomfortable there (and exemplify Frank Lloyd Wright’s disapproval of painting), my work will harmonize with and embrace the architecture, by opening itself up to the space of the building and the infinity beyond that it suggests. At the same time I believe my work implies a new partnership with architecture, akin in a way to the integration of painting, sculpture and architecture that obtained in art prior to the development of easel painting in the Renaissance.
Finally, I think people generally ignore the world around them during their everyday lives. In my art I want to help them see the importance of the everyday world. Because eternity is not in the far future. Eternity is now.
charles zigmund artist's statement