In his essay “Light and Space and Darkness: Taking Painting Full Circle in the Wireless World” (published in Darren Waterston: Representing the Invisible) David Pagel had me at hello. He’s a stylist of the finest art writing order, and he brings the inchoate beauty of Waterson’s work as close to language as I can imagine them getting.
A few samples follow.
On the loss of space and the possibility of splendid isolation:
Space is not what it used to be. In the 1960s, the most prominent feature of the cosmos was the infinite possibility of silent emptiness—a vastness so profound, inhuman, and endless that it naturally attracted the best and the brightest minds to take off on futuristic, quasi-mythological quests to discover its secrets by traversing the mind-blowing distances through which nothing but light—and the occasional meteorite—had traveled. Today, emptiness, silence, and even distance are in short supply. More people are packed into bigger, more cacophonous urban sprawls than ever before. A historically unprecedented level of visual stimulation constantly bombards us, diminishing attention spans as it fuels the desire for instantaneous gratification. And the wide-open silences that once left individuals free to follow their imaginations to roam aimlessly have been replaced by the incessant, omnipresent, invisibly transmitted communications made possible by a plethora of wireless technology…Today, the romance with silent emptiness is all but over, both in the visual arts and the popular imagination. The general public’s fascination with travel through deep space has waned, if not disappeared altogether.
On Waterston’s work:
The beauty of Waterston’s work resides in its fluidity, its capacity to dissolve hard-line distinctions between the substance of material reality and the power of the imagination. His paintings are timely because they move freely between the inner, invisible world of memory and fantasy and desire, and the outer, visible world of shared public space and recognizable representations. They are graceful and gracious because they fuse the look, feel, and giddy tempo of advanced digital technology with the slowly unfolding pleasures of techniques and procedures associated with Renaissance painting, when our modernity was just beginning, when tie moved more slowly and pateince was still a virtue, when painstakingly applied glazes were layered atop one another to create visually resplendent surfaces filled with more atmosphere and space than their literal dimensions and physical depths seemed capable of containing.
On artistic point of view:
None of Waterston’s paintings focuses a viewer’s attention on his self. None strives to express his inner sentiments. And none is even loosely autobiographical. The radical individualism that is often thought of as the raison d’être of art-making, especially expressive, abstract painting, plays an impressively unimportant role in Waterston’s works, which uniformly dissolve the artist’s self into anonymous, organic processes. This humble selflessness is a form of generosity, a means to leave viewers ample room to maneuver, interpreting and engaging the paintings in whatever manner best suits us.
For more information about Darren Waterston and his work, his website is here.
David Pagel is an art critic who writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times. He is an adjunct curator at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY.