I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s —William Blake
Born in Canada, Dan Rushton studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. This is Dan’s first solo show in New York.
Dan Rushton’s paintings describe a world poised between life and death, stillness and decay. Jagged branches rise up like terrible limbs from the folds of a velvet landscape. Bright pink flowers are everywhere set upon dark branches, their stems hidden from view. The flowers and branches are delicate signs of life but they are rendered as if frozen, perfect in their stillness. In a few of the paintings flowers are tossed in the air as if caught by a sudden wind, but even here the flowers remain idealized units. Beginning from life, certain elements in Rushton’s paintings pass through a process of abstraction. Scanned and reduced to prime elements on a computer, forms are then transferred to panel using stencils and airbrush. The finished paintings evoke a sense of tranquility, renewal and an unsettling inertia – a new kind of still life.
Other repeating elements include morphed skulls sprouting from the earth or radiating from clouds in the sky; reclining human figures; and flat architectural forms made-up of a latticework of half-circles. Drawing from romantic traditions in landscape painting, surrealism and vanitas, Rushton’s highly stylized objects and figures evoke a sense of metaphysical discontent. Evoking 17th century vanitas – in which objects serve as a reminder of the brevity of life and the futility of human achievement, these paintings contemplate various notions of time (linear and cyclical), and the constant presence but unseen nature of change/entropy. As Rushton states, “it’s a kind of decay, but more so a different kind of balance is being struck”. The artist’s imagination and his personal cosmology are set in counterpoise to an ever-expanding and all-consuming hyper-reality. These objects appear as symbols, opening up questions of death and renewal in an age of simulated reality. Rushton’s paintings pose questions about death in a context where death cannot exist.