Mar 042008

There is always the dilemma of choosing paintings for a review. For this one I want to focus on the series on brushes because they represent an antithesis to the broken glass pieces, thus closing a cycle. Here the theme of destruction encounters a worthy opponent — the brushes embody creation, and they physically tower erect and quietly valorous, and undaunted. The artist depicts the tools of his craft in the process of cleaning and maintenance, implying replenishment and constancy that can stand up to the notion of ruin and obliteration. So, to be frank to the end, the dilemma in this case was fleeting: if there is an opportunity to show how abstract concepts summon and resist each other within the larger context of the artist’s entire output, I grab it.

blue paintbrushes jug still life

There is a transparency of intent in comparison to the broken bottles, as we see the tools and conclude that the painter is the owner. That way the artist contemplates the openness of creation versus the anonymity, or, shall one assume, the cowardice of destruction. Furthermore, by being self-referential he takes personal responsibility and then acts upon it, each painting being a step towards reconstruction. The brushes assert the redeeming power of art; glass pieces have been collected, and remelted into stout, thick jars. Of course, there is the possibility to envision a reverse course of action. The containers are half full or half empty, and the artist challenges the beholder to choose; I choose the full half, and so, it seems, does the artist.

blue paintbrushes jug still life

In some ways the refractions serve as an inner control mechanism, the role which the round lines of the bottle necks and bottoms filled in the broken glasses series. Optimists and pessimists see things from different perspectives — and it shows. These compositions do not refer to an idealistic world without worries, where art can save the day, any day, but rather to an ideology that combines the ideal with the materialistic, fully aware of ensuing complexities: the astounding detail (the piece above) of the areas where the air touches the liquid proves just how deep that ideology is. The artist is willing to explore “conflict zones”, and the precision of delivery, undoubtedly laborious, makes the point better than any words can convey.

blue paintbrushes jug still life

Once again the artist relishes intricate light effects and color modulation. I find some of the effects veering towards mystical, particularly where the subject is brought very close to the eye, but the white backgrounds swing the compositions around, an ironic afterthought haunting the viewer as a consequence. Broad halos replicate inner glows, linking the back with the foreground, much like in animal toys, where the structure of the eyes contains a miniature nimbus. Ultimately, these qualities and the interactions between them unify the compositions and instill confidence to venture into remote interpretations — but their aesthetic alone is just as far-reaching, if you won’t.

  2 Responses to “Todd Ford: Still Life with Paintbrushes”

  1. I actually own four of Todd Ford’s paintings, and they are even better in real life. He is a truly gifted artist. What is amazing about a lot of his “latest” work is that he is able to convey on to canvas some simple subject matter while playing with light, contrasts, curves, edges, smoothness of glass, flowing fabrics, water drops. The end result is nothing short of dramatic. Where he differs from the usual hyperrealist fare is in his lack of fine details. In these work, everything flows, there is a lot of soft/hard edges, it all becomes very lyrical, almost like a song. His technique and what he chooses to paint really stands out as something in a class by itself. I think that he could become a major artist.

  2. Thanks, Alvin, for this great insight.

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