121231 - Benjamin Edwards’ work since the early 1990’s has explored what he calls “the architecture of suburbia” - the forms found in strip malls, fast-food joints, gas stations, motels and other familiar citadels of consumerism. Accompanying this architecture is what Edwards refers to as “the iconography of the roadway”, of artificial elements, commercial signs and highway symbols, juxtaposed with the natural scene or environment. In order to gather material for his work, Edwards has taken a number of cross-country road trips, searching out the “roadside life that almost exists in a separate channel.” Along the way, he takes photos with his digital camera and keeps detailed logs and diaries containing “location notes,” recording where he stops, where he stays, and what he buys. The digital photos are loaded into his computer. He subsequently selects various elements in the photos, isolates them, and reduces them to the basic geometry found in the subject. Once he makes his selections, he projects the design elements onto a canvas, incorporating as many as three hundred separate photos into a single painting. The result is a conflated composition, which becomes emblematic of what he refers to as the “American consumerist utopia.”
121127 - Salvation Mountain, built by Leonard Knight (now 81), just outside Saltonsea.
"Knight was one of four children, born in Burlington, Vermont. He never liked school, got teased a lot, and dropped out in the 10th grade. In 1951, he joined the Army, was trained as a mechanic and got sent to Korea. Upon his return, he worked as a mechanic in Vermont, supplementing his income by picking apples, which helped him raise enough money to make trips to Caliornia to visit his sister. He treasured the trips, except for the fact that she would make him go to church. Leonard hated church, and religion, and God, at that point in his life, and he figured the feeling was mutual. “I wasn’t doin’ nothing that God would be pleased with,” he has pointed out. During one visit, after an argument with his sister, he stomped out and sat in his truck. There in the driver’s seat — for reasons he can’t explain — he found himself saying, “Jesus, I’m a sinner, please come into my heart” over and over again. Jesus, he says, did. For the first time in his life, Leonard had a sense of direction — and it would be, as it turned out, a very strange direction. In 1971, still in Vermont, he noticed a hot air balloon one day, advertising a brand of beer. What if, he thought, he could market God similarly? He began researching and seeking materials to build a hot air balloon, and praying to God to help provide them, but for nine years it remained a distant and unreachable dream. On a cross-country trip in 1980, he had engine trouble in Nebraska, and had to spend several days there. The mechanic working on his truck offered to help with the balloon project. They got a bargain on some material, and, for three years, Leonard stayed in Nebraska and sewed. Not one to do things on a small scale, Knight stitched together a balloon that was 200 feet high, 100 feet wide, and built a burner, complete with fans, to help fill the balloon. The balloon never got off the ground, though. When he came to the desert in Niland, California to make a final attempt to launch it, he discovered the material was rotted. It was then, in 1985, his 14-year quest to launch a God is Love balloon over — that he decided to build a small replica of the balloon, in the middle of the desert, out of adobe. He planned to stay for a week in Slab City — a makeshift community of desert-dwelling loners, snowbirds, RV’ers and on-the-verge of homelessness types. But what started as an 8-foot sculpture would become Salvation Mountain, rising about three stories high, an accumulation of tires and other junk salvaged and donated, coated with adobe and brightly painted with flowing rivers, budding flowers, a yellow brick road and Bible scripture –all topped by a big white cross."
Take Highway 111 to Niland. Turn left (east) on Main Street (look for a stone house) Travel for a little over 3 miles. Look to the East. You absolutely cannot miss it.
Alison Turnbull’s paintings, made over the last three years, investigate the ways inwhich we transform the spaces we inhabit. The images are generated by foundarchitectural plans, sections and elevations, which are floated freely onto subtly colouredfields. These found diagrams are of public and domestic buildings, from different partsof the world , most of which Turnbull has never seen. The drawings come from aneclectic range of sources, books, maps and the internet. Through her technique oflayering and repeatedly abrading the surfaces of her paintings, Turnbull subjects eacharchitectural blueprint to a kind of archaeology. l Subjects include a town hall, chapel,villa, apartment, lighthouse, factory, bank, and asylum; Turnbull likens the series tobuilding an imaginary town or evoking the activities and rituals that make up a life.
Observatory is Alison Turnbull’s second exhibition at Matt’s Gallery and marks a new direction in her work. She has created a number of related paintings, originally inspired by plans of Thomas Jefferson’s observatory.
Collector, researcher and observer, Turnbull works with nature, but without literal illustration. Using specialist star charts as the genesis of her new work she shows the margins and transitional spaces of a human world. Plans and charts are already at one remove from their original source and Turnbull further distances her work from the subject through the act of painting. In this way new versions emerge that could not be depicted through media such as photography. By reconsidering existing structures she questions how we define things visually.
Turnbull’s approach has the quality of quiet and precise engagement. She begins her paintings with a set of internal parameters, or visual references, and as they develop she exerts pressure on these rules and the pictorial starts to take precedence.
Some paintings, such as Moon-viewing Platform, draw directly on the language of chart and plan; others are more abstract, but all are informed by close attention to colour and picture surface. Turnbull’s control of texture and composition emphasizes each work’s distance and depth. The canvas is sanded smooth and Turnbull applies finely detailed layers of painted shapes and dots that vary with subtle changes in the pressure of the brush on the canvas. With considerable skill and sensitivity she adjusts each painting’s structure; areas are built up by thickening the surface while others are pared right down. What emerges is a number of abstracted sites, each one a place where different dialogues might occur.
Turnbull’s drawings, created on pages from her extensive personal collection of exercise books and graph papers, both bought and donated, appear as notations contained by the graphic lines of the paper. The titles refer to the locations where each paper was purchased, conferring a sense of moving through familiar places. The drawings will be shown in an elongated vitrine running across the centre of the gallery space.
A publication to support the exhibition, Observatory, with an essay by Ed Krcma, published by Matt’s Gallery, will be available free to visitors.
"I am intrigued by architectural and constructional processes; the accumulation of plans, materials and structures, and the way that each stage in this process sequentially obscures the previous stage as construction advances, brick by brick, towards its intended conclusion.A vast body of architecture exists only in the realm of the unbuilt, in the form of ideas, drawings or models. To engage in dialogue with these unrealised projections allows us to read beyond the surface of buildings.
My paintings represent my own (falsified) documentation of a building’s existence, where both real and invented architectural features percolate space. The painted layers of architectural structures can refer to the past, present or future of a building as well as the unrealised futures of any abortive projections.Architectural processes have parallels with my own painting technique, both in terms of how my compositions are conceived and also in the way they are executed.
My practice utilises sampled architectural imagery taken from architectural plans and conceptual designs, as well as from memory and imagination. I work these sampled structures or planes up onto canvas and then expand, disassemble or destroy them with each new layer of paint.The resulting works show an oscillation between the real and abstract, the temporary and the constant.”