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Works on Paper

Lumen Lapsus (Light Falling)
by Shane Guffogg

Light has always been a central part of my art. In 2001, I began a series of paintings that had veils of light cascading down the surfaces.

I was thinking of light from a different source, like a reflect off of water that was then placed onto the picture plane.

It was a way for me to make light an object.

These pastels are a fusion of thought and process, of a moment of making and becoming something that I can’t imagine but can only realize when it fully manifests in front of me.

Pastels have an immediacy to them that are so different from oil paint because they don't have to dry between painting sessions, which allows me to stay more deeply connected from the start to finish. Mark making a moment where the subconscious and conscious are bridged via the mark on a sheet of paper.

That initial movement of the hand, the drawing of a line that curves and moves in on itself, then moves away into a new space; that for me is a pure moment. 

The medium of pastel has an innate purity that lends itself wholly to that moment.

The particles of pastel that cascade down the surface dance over and across the picture plane, like particles of falling colored light creating imaginary spatial planes that push the first moment of my process and each succeeding moment back into a conceptual space.

What if these light particles are falling in front of us all the time and we just can't see them?

What if there was a thin sheet between our 3rd dimension and a 4th dimension that only becomes visible when we let go of our preconceived ideas of reality?

These are all questions that bring up a moment, an idea, and a realization that we are more than the sum of our parts.

Shane Guffogg, Numbers series, pastel on paper

Soon after paintings like Untitled #2 from 1990, where combining his ideas of a conceptual space with a signature ribbon motif punctuated by jetting particles of light forming patterns as if they were some form of measurement of time and space. This was followed by Untitled #10, with a dense black background that is seemingly freezing time with the stop-motion of the two-glowing cream colored ribbons.

I started dreaming about them, about paintings that I hadn’t yet created. And in my dreams, I was standing in a gallery at an opening and my paintings were on the walls. I was also having my reoccurring dinner dreams with the painting masters. Creatively, things were flowing.

Guffogg’s abstractions are complex, it’s worth noting how independent they are of the idiom’s customary derivations from nature and geometry. His work manifests a sense of movement, and a tangible sensation of space that skirts immediate associations and that raise the question: can an artist render an abstraction that conjures up the framework of the Renaissance window – with its inherent illusionism – and still-remain abstract? His process is key to these visual conundrums, he favors the time-honored procedure of oil painting, building up layers of translucent glazes so that they seem to absorb and reflect light.

Time became a thing that occupied my thoughts. How many days are there in 10 years, 20 years? How many days had I been on the planet? How many days had transpired since the beginning of our calendar? The leap year had to be factored in, but surprisingly, the answer wasn’t as big of a number as I thought it would be. Figuring this all out put life on planet earth into a different perspective. Counting was a repetitive act, and that need of repetition found its way into my art in the form of leaves. I wasn’t interested in replicated a leaf in the same way I did the walnuts or pears. I was more interested in the generic idea of a leaf and the shape that would best convey the notion that these were leaves, not abstract marks. I started drawing them with charcoal, beginning in the middle, laying one on top of the other with the points showing from underneath. It was like another form of automatic writing as the layers started to take on patterns. When the drawings were finished, I would figure out how many days had transpired since the beginning of our western/ Gregorian calendar, and using stenciled numbers (lifting a page from Jasper Johns) would draw the numbers at the bottom of the page. It was a new way of dating the drawing. The numbers were in the 700,000s range which put things in a different perspective concerning time (and space), and the context of 1,989 years.

Excerpt from the essay, Shane Guffogg: The Meaning of Time (Pharmaka Press, 2019. Shane Guffogg: Conversations and Thoughts, 13 Essays - Shane Guffogg and Victoria Chapman) 

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