THE OILGRAPH TECHNIQUE
"Oilgraphing" is not an official term nor is it a standardly applied process.
It is simply what I believe describes the technique the best: a hybrid between a photograph and oil painting.
In 1994 I was experimenting with a number of techniques to create an emergent image -
of light coming out of the darkness. I realized that I needed something physically dark
so I began to look beyond standard or even alternative photographic processes.
I turned to oil paint.
Perhaps it was inevitable. I had always remembered the smell of linseed oil growing up
as my mother painted when I was a child. So right then and there I took a small
black and white print, covered it with ivory black oil and began wiping it off...
and that was it, the first "oilgraph."
UNTITLED 1994 // 5"x4"
The process began to quickly evolve in the first year.
The first works were completely monochrome (a form I continually return to)
but then color began to get worked into the pieces. Then montage. The pieces began
to take on lives of their own. I felt more like I was ushering them into physical form
rather than being their master. Rarely would a work be as I originally envisioned...
for which I was, and continue to be, grateful for. They surprise me, sometimes startle me
but in the end, my job is to listen to what they need to be and stop when I know
they are done.
PIECES OF 8 // 1997 // 26"x36"
Then in 1997 something happened that changed everything.
I was lecturing on the technique when an older lady at the back of the room asked,
"I don't understand. Why don't you just do one for us?"
I thought this was a really terrible idea. Who wants to watch me smear paint around for
some unwatchable period of time? But I thought, what's the worst that could happen?
People are bored to death and I end up with some piece that doesn't work.
So I shot and prepared a piece specifically for the following week...a Crucifixion.
When people arrived I warned them that I had no idea what I was doing. I lit some
candles, put on some music and started. That's when something happened.
Not having time to be ponderous, I worked quickly and spontaneously. I made
choices I normally never would have if I was in the studio. I was discovering the piece
along with everyone else...but I still thought everyone was bored to tears and
weren't walking out just to be polite. I finished.
When I turned around, there were in fact tears. Perhaps there was more going on
than I expected....
THE HUNTED // 1997 // 26"x36">
I have been doing the works live ever since.
They still surprise me. Each and every one.
It's my contention that an artist should never fully control their work.
They are merely responsible for a deeper kind of listening and seeing and then
usher the thing into existence. We get out of the way of the piece and let a greater
voice speak. If we do, it's recognizable. People just know.
THE GRIEF OF JUDAH // 2010 // 36"x24">
That's not to take away from the work of the artist.
In my case, the pieces are painstaking to make. Each piece is made on a custom made wooden
panel. The images are all from traditional film. Each is hand printed and toned in the darkroom.
Each is mounted in oftentimes a painfully laborious process. In some cases that can take over a
month for just the printing and mounting. People only see the final ten improvisational minutes
if it's a performance.
Though the technique and process has grown over the years, the original vision of it
remains the same. For me the work should reflect both the worlds seen and unseen
and every late night minute is worth it.