Perpetual Pursuit: Painting the Unattainable

Kelly Olshan

Abstract


Perpetual Pursuit: Painting the Unattainable investigates the aspiration to access an unreachable landscape. This body of work deals with ambition in both process and content, utilizing artists’ materials and a visual vocabulary to reference pursuit. In the context of this research, ambition represents endless reaching; the tendency to idealize what is physically and immaterially remote; and the aspiration to close the gap between the near and the far. James Elkins’ What Painting Is outlines a distinct relationship between the painting practice and the pursuit of an unknown outcome. Artistic waste, such as leftover oil and acrylic scraps, serves as evidence of this process. Additionally, this body of work uses staircases, windows, and the color blue to reference elusive distances. The color blue draws upon the writings of Rebecca Solnit, associating it with the tendency to idealize what is far away. For this reason, various shades of blue are evident throughout Perpetual Pursuit. Staircases function as a symbol for endless climbing; they are the means to access elevated spaces. Windows serve as another architectural device: framing the unattainable, they act as visual abbreviations of longing. Influences include contemporary artists who reference abstraction and architecture such as James Turrell, Richard Jacobs, and M.C. Escher. James Hyde’s and Robert Rauschenberg’s use of unconventional materials as well as their combination of painting and sculpture also informs this series. Perpetual Pursuit: Painting the Unattainable seeks satisfaction in the act of pursuing.


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