I have always understood painting to be a language of inquiry. While visual artists are confronted with an expanding range of new media, painting continues to provide a sensitive and resilient vehicle with which to explore the boundaries of experience. The desire to see beyond the limits of the intelligible propels many endeavors, but within this overreaching human curiosity, there is a compulsion to which painting provides specific access. This is the desire to fully experience the present – to disengage from memory of the past, as well as preconceptions of the future. It is the compulsion to reflect, as directly as possible, the conditions of immediate experience.


What interests me about experience in the present is its complexity. Within the diversity of the present, traditional notions of compromise – a balancing of opposites – seem inadequate. The contemporary situation far exceeds the simple dialectics of dualism. It is necessary, rather, to find a flexible and dynamic equilibrium in which multiple conflicting voices may find articulation and clarity. This pursuit might be viewed as idealistic, or counter-productive if one’s purpose is reductive. If it is idealistic, it is an idealism that accepts constantly shifting, temporary resolutions. Mostly, however, this pursuit seeks to create a context in which complexity and diversity may thrive and provide a fertile ground for the evolution of ideas.


The paintings engage diverse, often opposing, pictorial languages in dialog. Each work evolves according to the needs of the dialog and the process of choreographing a precarious equilibrium between the languages. What fuels the paintings and determines their content are the ways in which diverse pictorial vocabularies collide and merge to articulate diverse, and often contradictory, forces active in the present. Ultimately, the paintings acknowledge an abiding faith in the constructive role of the creative imagination and its ability to find unexpected points of correspondence and resolution beyond the reach of reason and logic.


The decision to continue to paint, and to reveal experience in the present, stems in part from the desire to resist cooption in an increasingly homogenous and administered international culture. The fact that I am a product of, and an active, willing participant in this culture, ensures the contradictory conditions of this resistance. Nonetheless, resistance seems to be an effective means by which it is possible to limit the ability of a media determined culture to render experience banal. It may be the only method to protect the capacity to be surprised and excited by what is. That capacity may be one of the few remaining measures of individual freedom.




Ian Harvey

Sacramento, March 2007