Jamie Chase ‘POV’: Reflections
Posted on July 31, 2014
It seemed like all of Santa Fe attended last Friday’s opening for ‘POV: New Paintings by Jamie Chase.’ Our front room was a swell window, capturing waves of art lovers and sweeping them through the gallery. As elbow room got tighter and people moved closer and closer to the canvases, art and life blended together. Painted figures became the streamlined shadows of chatting visitors, and an elegant woman’s posture found its soft echo in Chase’s acrylic brushstrokes:
“The human form is the intrinsic architecture of our experience,” Chase wrote in his artist statement for the show. “[It] is… a common, yet universal, reference point.” The Santa Fe artist’s figures are instantly recognizable, but possess carefully plotted gaps in detail that lend them ongoing visual mystery. That’s why viewers often move in close, even when the gallery isn’t packed.
As the show approaches its second week, we talked to Chase about perspective, metaphor, color and finding a satisfactory stopping point. Read the interview below, and make sure to come see the show before it closes on August 8.
Jamie Chase, Basking, Acrylic on Canvas
In your artist statement for the show, you mention the ‘lens of self,’ or the ‘frame through which we interpret the world.’ What did you learn about your own ‘lens’ as you worked on this show?
Part of it is how I look at the world, and how I feel about the human state, but also how I feel about painting and art. A lot of people are looking for more meaning in the paintings than I’m intending. I’m just enjoying the process of painting and finding the balance of the shapes and colors. That becomes my meaning.
Maybe there’s always been an underpinning of some sense of self in the painting I do, a sort of metaphor that attracts me to it. I guess there’s an existential quality to it… that could be cues to a particular story. It’s like meeting the viewer halfway, giving them some cues that lead them to a realization about the human experience, while leaving them to fill in the gaps on their own.
Jamie Chase, Yellow Chair, Acrylic on Canvas
Do you meditate on the perspectives of your subjects?
Only if it’s directly intended to represent a particular person. In the pictures of Sasha, obviously a lot more thought goes into those in that regard. Maybe painting the female figure is my anima. I see that [feminine] representation as having a sense of quietude, more of ‘being as a reason for being.’ Not to say that women aren’t doing a lot, they just seem to have a sense of repose and a receptive nature toward the spiritual life that I don’t see in the traditional representation of males.
I think painting and writing are two of the few art forms in which only one human is involved in making the statement. For me, writing and painting are very intimate, and allow you to have this one-on-one conversation with whoever sees your work. I like that about it.
Not everybody will see my work, and I won’t reach some people because of my particular point of view about art. But I tend to make deep connections with the people who do like it.
Jamie Chase, Ease, Acrylic on Canvas
What are some ways the human figure appears as a ‘metaphor’ in your work?
It’s a metaphor in that you look at the painting of the figure, and you can see that the figure is there, but you are also equally aware that it’s a painting. It’s not a stark representation of a viewpoint. The details I leave out become the reason that I make the painting in the first place.
The positive aspect of that is that the language of figurative painting is so ingrained in us that even if I leave something out, it’s easy to bridge what’s there. If you can get the architecture right, it’s easy to know whether it worked or not, because we’re so familiar with the human figure.
You can distort the figure for an emotional effect or psychological effect, but I tend to take a more classical approach when it comes depicting the human figure.
Jamie Chase, Allusion, Acrylic on Canvas
Is there a tension between naturalism and abstraction in your work, or do they work together?
I like to think they work together. It probably does provide tension for people who think that the painting is unfinished, but other people who really get what the process of painting is about know that painting always exists in some unfinished state.
Jamie Chase, Balance, Acrylic on Panel
For this show, you’ve meditated on ‘when to stop’ painting. What made you think about this, and what are your conclusions?
The ongoing motif of my process has been trying to find that moment when all the vitals are there, when the painting works as a whole. I want to find the point when there’s enough surface interest or color relationship, without taking it to its logical conclusion.
It can be very tempting to add shading here, or a glint in the eye there. I’ve done that sort of work before, and it’s easy to get caught saying, ‘Oh, I know where that light source would hit that.’ I’m trying to remove those details. I guess that’s where abstraction becomes more paramount, just the overall distribution of shapes and weights and colors.
Jamie Chase, Curiosity, Acrylic on Canvas
Would you call yourself a colorist?
No. Color is important, certainly. It’s a very seductive quality of art that tends to get overused. Some artists seem to think that the brighter the colors, the more likely you can sell a painting.
I’m just working with value and tones. With this particular show the palette is even more limited than usual. It’s very subdued, and all within a certain range. I usually think of my palette more as ‘warm and cool.’
Jamie Chase, Distractions, Acrylic on Panel
A lot of visitors remarked that the show feels very cohesive. Is that something you set out to accomplish?
I think because I did all the work within a really narrow time frame, it helped. I had kind of a sensibility of the aesthetic, based on a few paintings that were early in the process.
A lot of the paintings have earlier paintings under them, so there’s a lot of texture built up. There’s a lot of subtext, and what may be considered imperfection.
Jamie Chase, Idyll, Acrylic on Panel
Is it hard to paint over images on older canvases?
Not once I start. There are some paintings that just say, I dare you to do anything else to it. Those ones I call finished. With others, the composition isn’t working exactly the way I want it to. Those ones are easy to paint over.