ECHOES by Jon Pugh
“Imagination” is not equivalent to consciousness, or "reality" to the world as it exists outside his mind. Reality is the product of the imagination as it shapes the world. Because it is constantly changing as the artist attempts to find imaginatively satisfying ways to perceive the world, reality is an activity, not a static object
ECHOES by Jon Pugh
The embrace seen in the Brothers series consistently has a sense of motion to it but this motion is constructed through a narrative rather than the direct depiction of movement. Fiction comes from conflict and tension, without these things there can be no story. It is the tension of the embrace that tells us we are looking at part of a larger unresolved story like a single frame out of a film. We are always looking at an event in between other ambiguous ones.
However, the pictures are without setting mostly painted with a single thickness of line on a textured green surface like graffiti on a wall. Without shading, the figures blend into the background and the lines often resemble symbols akin to letters and numbers. This detaches the scene from reality but due to the complex emotional nature of the pose it does not remove the narrative
Instead the situation becomes a dream-like one bringing together the situation and the overall theme of the unconscious. As a result, the unresolved narrative that is implied to be on either side of the 'frame' we see is presented not as part of a coherent story but as another section in the 'dream sequence' and as such encourages much more abstract and subjective speculations.
This is similar to Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 in which there is a fictitious book being written within the diegesis of the film.
There are many more characters in the story of 2046 that exist outside of the book than within it and yet the characters of the book are representative of all others in various ways. This is possible because they are all reducible to various shared traits, both emotional and situational which are spread between fewer characters in the book than the wider story. In this way by making its audience reduce the characters to their components, 2046 draws attention to its own fictional nature.
The dream world within the paintings is much like this 'book within a film' in how the work discusses itself as fictional through the portrayal of a fiction within itself. By treating the depicted event as a dreamed one (thus intrinsically fictional) we are forced to consider the subjective nature of the paintings’ construction rather than regarding it as simply descriptive. The embrace also relates to 2046 in it's analysis of how multiple perspectives and situations can be expressed through a single character or event. As characters from within a dream, the figures are presented as being constructed from multiple influences of the unconscious and summarizing them in one place.
The sense of motion through tension does not continue in Head in Hands, where a single figure is depicted in a moment of grief. Here the situation is static, it has lost it's cinematic quality because although it demands a cause, it does not suggest any further development of a narrative, the pain we see is therefore a conclusion in itself. This static nature is further emphasized through the style of the paining that resembles dirty concrete.
Guy was influenced by a series of neglected sculptures on the driveway of his grandmother’s house; they depicted prestigious figures in timeless poses but were severely dirty and damaged by weather. The pose in Head in Hands is also timeless and goes beyond cultural differences; in a theatre it would immediately communicate sorrow to an audience. These classical themes are undermined and modernised in Guy's interpretation in much the same vein as the classical sculptures were altered by the weather, the time and the birds into something potentially more interesting. The speckle covering the figure resembles the kind of degradation that is often visible on old stone; however, in the painting it is multicoloured creating a slightly circus-like effect that further undermines its classical roots.
The lack of a visible face prevents the eye from focusing on any one place at first glance. This leads the viewer to consider style before content and thereby draws attention to the figures statue-like and dirty style. The lack of a face also removes the identity of the figure that makes him more universal and as a result, more sympathetic. In this way, we are led to relate to the sense of suffering in the painting but at the same time recognise its archaic and theatrical nature. This leads on to the black on green line drawing of the same image in which the concept is so removed from its initial source that the concrete style is no longer present. Instead it is painted like graffiti to match the bulk of the series.
The initial concept behind these images came from internet pornography but rather than degrading it like the traditional sculptures, it has been elevated to the cultural level of gallery art through the application of modern styles influenced by Adrian Stokes’ idea of filmic colour and the simple sensation of sun on skin. The figures maintain a photographic quality to connect them to their roots but are so high contrast that they are reduced almost to line drawings. This enables them to blend into their backgrounds, which are also constructed from solid lines, inspired by high contrast grass and hay bails. The figures both lean forwards, which make them appear more three dimensional, creating an apparent visual contradiction since they are merged to a flat background. In this way there is confusion between the 3D and 2D sections of the paintings that result in the backgrounds becoming more complex and interesting than they would otherwise have been. In Burn Up, the canvas was extended above the figure in order to allow a larger section of uninterrupted background for this phenomenon to take place in. The other approach seen in Yellow Girl, gives more space on the canvas to the figure and less to the background creating a stronger illusion of undulation in its otherwise flat surface.
The unifying factor of the series is how the paintings explore the nature of the subconscious by taking images out of their initial contexts much like how old memories and dreams do. There is motion and distortion but it is always subtle, as it is created through emotional links rather than direct depiction. Like the images that arise from the unconscious the paintings are all-honest but suggest a subjective significance far beyond what is depicted. The intrigue of the paintings therefore exists not only in the visible ‘frame’ but also in the grey area they create.