October 23rd, 2018 (San Francisco, CA) — Eleanor Harwood Gallery is pleased to present Florascape, our third solo show with William Swanson. Swanson is a painter’s painter, his images so detailed and so abstracted in areas of the paintings that the images feel tightly controlled while some areas paint is being allowed to pool and coalesce into curious shapes, colors, and textures. There is an element of chance in the works but also a strict architectural grid that is more apparent in some paintings and only hinted at in others.
Kenneth Baker described the work best in a 2014, when he reviewed Swanson’s first solo show with EHG. Baker wrote: “bits of yellow, and orange, white and gray near the center suggest breakup in a digital image transmission, perhaps hinting that even the output of the painter’s mind has acquired the syntax of digital media.” Baker continues, “Swanson has a wonderful way with fine details that, once noticed, can remake our reading of an entire picture, looking suddenly like distant features of land or architecture or simply hovering in scale-less abstraction.”
In Swanson’s new work in Florascape, his focus is around scenes with multiple views and vantage points. For example in Material Bloom, industrial infrastructure looms in the distance behind a foreground of a blooming meadow brush. The painting suggests hopeful and ever resilient plants growing under a knitted sky of omnipresent digital connections. They are in the fore, providing the spikes and delights of color, despite a hovering, dark sky.
In “Spacial Growth”, mushrooms and fungi tower in the foreground while we see a grid in the lower left, seemingly a last background layer that maybe shouldn’t have been exposed. Swanson uses the fungi as markers of life cycles, but slyly is also referencing psychotropic substances. In general the paint texture throughout the body of work is analogous to geologic chemical processes. In “Spacial Growth”, we are forced to consider if the shifting and flowing paint is an indicator of shifting perception brought on by a mind altering substance or a reference to fantastic spore explosions caught by slow motion footage. In the right center of the painting the grid breaks apart and skews the tight, clean squares. Order is breaking apart, or at the very least, being rearranged.
Swanson’s painting techniques and tempos feel akin to Math Rock, which is “characterized by complex, atypical rhythmic structures (including irregular stopping and starting), counterpoint, odd time signatures, angular melodies, and extended, often dissonant, chords.” He composes his paintings with such care, but leaves small areas to abandon. His poured pools are allowed to settle and cure, he then excavates back through layers of pigment to find a space to populate and build upon introducing polyrhythms of space and paint. And like Math Rock, the human voice/form is not the main character in these works. The paint, the implied architecture, rhythms of the space and the suggestion of disaster and renewal are the themes and stories at the center of these works.
Swanson is concerned with increasing occurrences of super storms, wildfires, and major climate events and they affect his outlook and how he presents his particular view on the landscape. His spaces feel like human environments swept clean by forces of nature. However bleak that may sound he contends that disaster can be a transformative event in the long view.