Tuesday, January 01, 2019

January 2018 Unicorn Of The Month: Galen Cheney

Optimist, oil, acrylic, and liquid textile color on collaged canvas, 63" x 68."

Painting is a sort of heartbreak. Initially there’s the seduction—the painting seems to paint itself and everything is working. Then, the veil slips and all the flaws are revealed, one by one, and I have to undo everything that I at first thought was so beautiful. This plays out again and again in each painting until something new pushes forward, hopefully stronger, stranger, unanticipated. And by flaws I don’t mean mistakes, for I think any strength my paintings may have is born of the accumulation of shifts in direction, which manifest as surfaces that are built up, scraped off, carved into, and built up again. The painting is a record of its making.


Return From Exile, acrylic and oil on collaged canvas, 72" x 56."
The Heart Knows What the Eye Can't See ... textile color on canvas, 56" x 65."

That physicality is intrinsic to these process-driven works. I have long been drawn to abandoned city walls given over to graffiti as well as to the peeling frescoes of Pompeii and ancient cave paintings. I relate to them both aesthetically as well as emotionally. The work I was doing previously more overtly related to contemporary graffiti. I have since stepped back from that, though I am still hooked on bright colors and the combination of slick and gritty surfaces.

Light Falls, textile color, acrylic and oil pastel on raw canvas, 40" x 36."
Limbic, oil, acrylic and paper on collaged canvas, 60" x 44."

I had never before felt so foreign or out of my element. I was in a heightened state and I put all of my expressive energy into my work. With papers bought and found I got to work. The most potent expression of my feeling of being unmoored and disconnected yet very alive was to rip, alter, and recombine what became small mountains of paper in my studio. This is when I began working in collage in earnest. I felt like I was in a kind of trance, and when I came out of it I not only had a whole new body of work, but a new way of working as well as a path forward.

My current work has everything to do with a residency I had in China three years ago. I went there with only a few pencils and a couple of my favorite ink brushes, as my intention was to explore the beautiful papers and inks that I would find there. Being in China was an eye-opening experience for me; I was one of very few westerners in this small city, and, apart from a few phrases, I spoke no Mandarin.


Optimist, oil, acrylic, and liquid textile color on collaged canvas, 63" x 68."
Untitled (Chartreuse) Textile color and oil on collaged canvas, 60" x 48."

When I got home I wanted to apply the ideas I had developed with paper in China to canvas and other textiles. I am still working in this way—ripping paintings up, collaging them back together, adding paper, pulling elements off, adding others. It is creatively rich and satisfying and I see no end in sight.

To see more Galen's work, visit her Website and Instagram Page. 

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