136, Montagne d’Or (der Gute Berg)

136, 2018-01, Montagne d’Or (der Gute Berg), oil on linen, 60 x 90″ (148 x 228cm) (detail, 2)

This is a study of a study of incommensurables, with a view of Mount Meru, the golden mountain at the center of the universe. In the foreground are two spectral figures seated opposing each other in complement, an Aristotelian “square of opposition”. The glass cube “Map Room” is an allusion to Francis Bacon by way of David Lynch, but here meant to show that there is, and necessarily must be, a threshold, a barrier which we cannot get past, separating us from what is beyond us. We can try to look, to enjoy the view, but we cannot touch, and we cannot go there. There are abiding limits to humanity and to ourselves. The theme, aesthetic, and bittersweetness was inspired by Orbus Terrarum by the Orb, the passing of geologic deep time, and the fever dream vision of a Penrose hypercube.

From an interview about the piece:

This is a study of a study [sic] of “The Incommensurable”— that which is not able to be judged by a common standard, an endlessly interesting and relevant concept of how we come to personally come to conceive of ethics, aesthetics, beauty, and love. It’s striking the extent to which these ideals are not taught or learned, but intuited, created from a more foundational material that is thoroughly mysterious and will always remain so. And must remain so, for certain things must remain hidden and unreachable, since were certain desires and drives to be no longer present or necessary, proportionally we would find ourselves to be less human. Consider Elevation or Enlightenment as popularly conceived, and how out-of-touch it might come to seem. Would anyone truly enlightened simply leave behind everyone else in the eternal, corporeal struggle? I think too of Arthur C. Clarke’s statement, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Aren’t virtue and perhaps elevation too, similarly really all only a question of knowledge, intelligence, and consciousness— these being sufficiently applicable to conduct? And if so, when we wonder why there aren’t more truly Good People, it’s because that either to us they are invisible enough, or else they are just not here. They’ve moved on, shifting ever-so-slightly out of phase with our perception, like ghosts.

Ghosts, therefore, are our future, one way or another. I suppose I’m the current, contemporary, local, self-coronated artist or “portrait painter of Ideas”, where I use ghost figures to as much as possible represent “non-thingness”. Like the non-representational painters of the last century, or practitioners of more purely formalistic disciplines, I’d like to make an object (a work of art) that is very much concerned with transcending its materiality. The truth is that art… and life…? has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any object. What about instead something like a piece that is more than anything like a single-lane mountain road at the edge of a precipice, where a sign blocking the way forward reads: “Road Closed”. Beyond that the road disappears around a turn. However far you think you get along this path, you realize there will always be that inaccessible area. The idea of a ghost, or spirit, is that long after something is gone or passed, there is some residual feeling or idea that cannot be satisfied. I think often, most days really, of Evelyn Waugh’s Charles Ryder of Brideshead Revisited, consumed with lost time and life: “I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, and that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of it, and search for it hopelessly, as ghosts are said to do, frequenting the spots where they buried material treasures without which they cannot pay their way to the nether world.”