“Beauty is a trait of the surface, while the sublime begins deep inside, then forces its way to the surface. As the sublime comes through to the surface it automatically destroys the picture that was there."
— Thomas McEvilley, “Turned Upside Down and Torn Apart”
This introduction to recent paintings by Chase Westfall focuses on dichotomizing socio-political, art historical, religious, and personal frameworks. By exploring polar opposites that are commonly accepted as being mutually exclusive, Westfall’s works force, by artistic contrivance, moments where harmony is imposed on the irreconcilable. Painterly, traditional painting vs. Minimalist tendencies. Religious vs. Artistic practice. Apollonian vs. Dionysian. Secularism vs. Spiritualism. Order vs. Ecstasy.
These anthropological concerns, both internal and external, are a sincere attempt at making sense of these struggles through modernist and anti-modernist modes. The paintings on display, which range from 2009-2013, seem to long for a return to order by moving from transcendent abstract approaches to humanistic realist figurative respects within a single
composition. Unlike the opposite, where the closer one visually comes to an image the more abstract it becomes, Westfall’s paintings by contrast become more revealing.
By peering “though” or “past” or “beyond” the safety buffer of the lattices and familiar Minimalist devices (nods to Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Agnes Martin are recurring), the conflict is discovered. The peace is fleeting. Violence is unearthed, and wires wind around the ankles of the blind. Concepts of animal sacrifice, surgery, modern medicine, war, and Judeo-Christian traditions are confronted, but only momentarily before the reductive voids in the compositions visually disconnect the viewer yet again.
To put it another way, says Westfall, “The shifting uncertainty of these positions accounts in part, I believe, for the recurring form or motif of the diamond, which has the geometric regularity of a grid, but provides a more dynamic, and therefore more ambiguous, form: equally legible as (or capable of) violence and/or transcendence.”
This first solo exhibition by Chase Westfall with the gallery is made possible in part by the generosity of the East Tennessee State University Research Development Committee and the Department of Art and Design who financially supported the production of 2012 works via grant giving. Chase Westfall is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at ETSU. His work was recently featured in New American Paintings No. 100 (2012), and he has previous solo exhibitions at ETSU’s Tipton Gallery, and Twin Kittens Gallery of Atlanta Georgia.