Seduce the Deep

So much of my work revolves around motion.  Figures, elements, events in flux.  The rhythms of movement are extremely engaging for me.

1 Bentley Seduce the Deep

Bentley, Seduce the Deep, 48″ x 60″, oil on canvas, 2015

Though I have spent the bulk of my painting career and training focusing on the figure I have repeatedly explored still-life, landscape, and abstraction as a form of play.  The sense of play in making was ever present in the beginning.  At some point along the way that playful spirit was replaced by work.  Things became more serious.  The demands of making an income and simply becoming more proficient in making the work made the act of making more serious.  The worst blow to my sense of play came eight years ago when my best friend, Chris Lyon, died suddenly in a motorcycle crash.  He was an amazing painter.  We were roommates all through college and even attended the same grad program.  We showed in the same gallery.  His show always followed mine in the schedule.  We competed against one another, pushed each other, and constantly worked to make the other better. Then he was gone.  Painting wasn’t fun anymore. The other side of this whole story is that Chris’ and my work in college was incredibly similar.  Both of our markmaking was based on a noodly, searching, erratic line.  The marks we made would explore, lock onto the form, then lose it again.  Our paintings were constantly being mistaken for the other’s.  When we got to the grad program at Penn, we drew a line in the sand.  The line was somewhere around de Kooning.  Chris took abstraction with figurative influences and I took figuration with abstract influences.  This allowed us to go our own ways .  We remained each other’s top critics since we could see through to the core of each other’s painting.

2 Bentley The Immutability of Change

Bentley, The Immutability of Change, 52” x 60”, oil on canvas, 2015

Just before he died, Chris started to bring figures back into his work.  I was starting to let my figures give way to the abstraction a little more.  The line in the sand was eroding.  When he was suddenly gone, the erosion stopped.  His part of the conversation ended.  Mine just froze where it was. Now, it’s been eight years and I made the decision that the line in the sand must be fluid again.  When I was knee deep in my water series, my body of work exploring figures at play underwater, I started to become intrigued by the motion of just the water.  The ripples pushing and pulling against each other.  I loved the abstraction of it all.  Right away, I made a couple of paintings studying that water motion without figures.  They felt free and dangerous.  Difficult and open. I just finished my goal of ten large scale waterscapes.  It took me more than ten canvases to reach my goal.  There a lot of paintings that couldn’t be saved.  I wanted the goal to give me the freedom to explore.

To find the language of the new direction.  I still paint my figures: dancers, pillow fighters, and couples under water but these abstract paintings provide a new arena to explore. I flip between thinking of them as waterscapes or as nonrepresentational paintings.  It really doesn’t matter.  The results are the same.  Some start from a photo shoot where I’m diving repeatedly underwater shooting as I go, others start by making two dozen thumbnail drawings in my sketchbook, others simply begin with a mark on the canvas followed by the counter mark. The end result is that I get to explore the motion that I love in a new way and I get to play again.

Chris Lyon, Drying Out the Devil's Lungs, 60" x 60", oil on canvas, 2002

Chris Lyon, Drying Out the Devil’s Lungs, 60″ x 60″, oil on canvas, 2002

Bentley, Faster Still, 48" x 60", oil on canvas, 2015

Bentley, Faster Still, 48″ x 60″, oil on canvas, 2015

 

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