Travis Collinson: Paintings and Drawings
Maloney Fine Art, Culver City
January 12 – February 16, 2013
By Eve Wood
The work of Travis Collinson could be described as “misanthropic euphoria,” as the artist juxtaposes images of deep personal reverie and introspection with an odd, comic impulse. In his first exhibition in Los Angeles, at Maloney Fine Art, Collinson delivers a series of portraits, mostly of himself and his sister, that are psychologically complex and enigmatic. Working with representational imagery which he then skews, shifts, and distorts through subtle manipulation of elements -- including small sculptural works melded seamlessly into the larger paintings -- Collinson creates an evocative biomorphic universe where his introspective figures appear trapped in moments of apprehension and longing.
Collinson is a master of the understated gesture. His figures loom large in terms of their literal physical presence within the frame of the image, yet remain anchored to shifting and unreliable landscape surroundings. In Scatter (2013) for example, the figure is positioned stiffly in the upper left side of the picture plane, as though slowly lowered into the frame from suspended machinery. The image is awkward and unsettling in the very best sense, and Collinson’s addition of sculptural elements such as a leaf cut out from canvas, a piece of blue string, and a few abjectly scattered stones, add to the painting’s sense of strangeness and mystery.
Collinson’s use of the gaze is also quite potent and is reminiscent of Alice Neel’s and Lucien Freud’s portraits wherein the central figure serves as a psychologically charged template for the artist, the eyes imparting an array of emotional responses from longing to sadness to deliberate stoicism. Collinson, like Neel and Freud, focuses on the eyes as a means of accessing intensely realized emotional content within the paintings. The eyes function not so much as axiomatic “windows to the soul” in regards to the portraits’ subjects; more so, they form a mirror for the artist’s and viewer’s own misgivings and apprehensions.
Collinson utilizes the common houseplant in much the same way Freud used the image of the Italian greyhound in many of his paintings -- as a comforting symbolic witness to the space and the powerful emotions contained therein. Collinson’s houseplant, as in the wonderfully enigmatic Untitled (Marcy with Plant) doubles as intimate companion, positioned on the bed next to the woman as though placed there in acknowledgment of the natural forces at work in the universe -- or maybe to simply hold the sheets in place. Either way, the painting is a commanding image that suggests through its shifting and unbalanced perspective a disquieting narrative on the brink of unfolding. Ultimately, Collinson is a master of both form and content, and while he does make a nod to both Neel and Freud, he demonstrates time and again in this exhibition the versatility of his own extraordinary vision.
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