A note on multistylism: Both the holographic model and Maturana’s views on autopoesis and the ‘multiversa’ incline me towards a multistylist approach to painting. As the individual has been traditionally associated with a signature style as the manifestion of identity, the current speculations about biology, physics, culture and psychology lead away from the assumed parallel of individual ‘bodyhood’ with individual identity. The single body can be seen as supporting multiple identities pathologically, as in multiple personality disorder, or nonpathologically as in Heinz von Foerster’s implication of a “multiple personality order” by his claim,” I am not one man but a whole collection of people.” In art, the pioneers of this approach have been sequential (Picasso, Picabia, Lucio Pozzi) or concurrent (Richter), concurrent but compartmentalized (Ellsworth Kelly) or both concurrent and sequential in a non programmatic relationship (de Chirico). I aim to explore this further in my work as I believe that multistylism is the most compelling frontier for visual art in these times.
I am interested in style, especially its psychological significance. I regard style, in the practice of painting as enacted by a professional painter – by that, meaning a painter who works out of continuous daily practice – as something which emerges unconsciously out of the altered state of consciousness – or trance – to which the artist submits in the course of the practice.
While planning, ideas, and theory may set the stage for an artwork, or attend its postmortem, the process from which style emerges is a special state in which attention is focused, narrowed, filtered and distorted in a way that resembles, in turns, autism, paranoia, meditative states and “split personality.” The afterglow of the experience can even resemble mania (after a period of time) or mystical experience.
Traditionally, a painter has been identified with a style. Heinrich Wofflin examines this phenomenon in Principles of Art History, where he breaks style into polar dichotomies (as Berenson later did) and emphasized, as Berenson did, ethnicity or hometown as an explanation for inclinations of style. After Malraux’s realization that global art is available to all artists, the provincial lineages that organized the study of style broke down as all artists, through the availability of reproductions, could be exposed to art of any place or time as they chose. Meyer Schapiro regards style as that which is constant in form or expression throughout the productions of an artist or a culture.
This argues for unconscious style, and I believe that while the creation of style was important in the modernist agenda, modernist style had two manifestations: an explicit style (the project, the constructed intentional style) and an implicit style (the involuntary style as described by Wofflin or Berenson through comparing and contrasting cultural and/or formal approaches into polarities (e.g. tectonic vs a-tectonic, Florentine vs Venetian – more or less: maniera). In the postmodern world, the project moves in the direction of astylism, but unconscious biases still exert power over outcomes. According to this view, Kiefer would be still a late modernist painter while mid-eighties David Salle a postmodernist. When Peter Schjeldahl says that “painting is embarrassingly overqualified for how we consume visual material in our culture” he is subtly implying that painting itself occupies a sidestream to postmodern development. Further, when he says,” Painting is the unbeatable example of and metaphor for individual consciousness,” Schjeldahl indicates that painting, by its nature, is congenitally disinclined to get with the “there-is-no-author” program, as painting registers individuality automatically. It is because of its inherent registering of individuality, not because it has “run out of things to say,” that painting is regarded as dead by postmodernist critics. Painting isn’t dead, it is simply dead to the postmodernist agenda which wishes to emphasize other things that art might be. Whatever vitality that postmodern painting may have is due to the frisson of inevitable individuality with an agenda that denies it.
Nevertheless, from Early Renaissance to Abstract Expressionism, “signature style” was historically regarded as both automatic and desireable. It is by the style that the artist is determined, and while iconographic analysis is of great value, it is through delectation that artists are identified. Anomolies are interesting, the first of these being states of indistinguishability, which may have been commonplace in cultures that de-emphasize the individual (e.g. ancient Egypt, for instance, in which distinctions may be excruciatingly slight) but are rare in the post-Renaissance West until the peculiar period in which analytical cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso seem to intend, if not fully achieve, indistinguishability. With mechanical reproduction we see duplicability, but not indistinguishability. There are attempts at indistinguishability through joint participation in the artwork (Equipo 57, for instance) but Braque and Picasso’s near indistinguishability take the heady joy of being part of a movement (the Impressionists, for instance) and drive it into a psychological experience for both artists that suggests extreme intimacy. As Picasso calls him: “Braque, my wife.” But the situation suggests something different than either the differentiated but bonded autonomies of a “healthy relationship” or the “enmeshment” of an unhealthy one. It does resemble a short period during which Sun studios brought together Elvis, Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis in a pressure cooker that rapidly developed the language and parameters of basic Rock’n’Roll, the way Picasso and Braque rapidly generated the language and parameters of Cubism.
Picasso’s stylistic sequences resemble his serial relationships, indicating that there is something different but repeated about each stylistic segment. (This circularity interests me.) Style is summed up as a material expression of sensibility. Sensibility is defined as a shifting synthesis of allowables and disallowables nested within a greater structure of allowables and disallowables.
In other words, a shifting framework of possibilities within another shifting framework of possibilities. Artists historically unite theory and practice, and operate out of a sensibility rather than by mechanically applying theory to practice.
La Vista Totale
Still, there is the project of establishing a comprehensive view, and I have forced this by seeing a single slowly developing narrative through the assorted styles in a long term series, originating in 1980, titled La Vista Totale: a partial view. This series emphasizes, as vehicles of comprehension, David Bohm’s “holomovement,” Maturana’s ideas about “structural coupling” and “structural drift” and Maturana and Varela’s “autopoesis,” as well as organizational principles from cybernetics, and makes room for eccentric models from Philip Dick and Terence McKenna, while drawing inspiration about defining the mission of the artist from Blake, Munch and Dali.
My fundamental text, from which all LVT work emerges is a set of unpublished books, of which I am the author, comprising a fictional narrative that includes speculation in the above mentioned areas. These books, titled Out of Jeweled Chaos, Kali Rules, Age of Infirmation, Nearer the Trivial Core and Delphi in Snow, are at present a work-in-progress, remaining roughly half-written and comprising about 1300 pages of text. My paintings draw from these books in general, and contribute to them. The continuing image of La Vista Totale: a partial view, is manifest as depictions of a contract of some kind enacted between two figures, both female in most paintings. While elements of imagery: a Chinese hat, Indian pipe fungus, lilies, an orb, snakes and particular postures of supplication and giving characterize these paintings, the styles in which they are painted shift dramatically through time, as from identity to identity, while the narrative of the contract moves very slowly. Stylistic shifts oscillate between regressive and progressive historical styles so that, seen as a totality, some characteristics of wave patterns may be revealed.
These paintings recall the titles of the books as follows: Out of Jeweled Chaos: There is always a transition from chaos through variety towards order and/or the reverse, and a continuing reference to the doctrine of the “jeweled web of Indra.”
Kali Rules: One of the characters, who possesses knowledge, is more or less explicitly Kali, presiding over death, radical fertility and growth; Age of Infirmation: Each painting suggests or includes the underground and in it an interment suggesting decay (including the presence of Indian pipe), fertility and waiting; Nearer the Trivial Core: locates the center of things as arbitrary and shifting, such as a trashed KFC coffee cup lid in a painting of the same name depicting the underground stratum of the LVT:apv format; Delphi in Snow: Joins together the oracle and the Snow Queen, both manifestations of Kali, in resolution as Great Mother in the (life) seasonal and geographical destination of the series, Delphi in Snow.
The La Vista Totale: a partial view series began in 1981 with a painting titled The Education of the Virgin, a somewhat wry reference to the painting of the same name long attributed to Georges de La Tour in the Frick Collection. This presented a suggestion of an education of a secular nature, as a younger light-skinned woman is being instructed as to the interpretation of what lies before her by an older, dark-skinned woman. The dark-skinned woman forecasts Kali, and it is evident that, among the experiences she has that exceed those of the light-skined woman, some contain pain, destruction and regret.
Nevertheless, in this series, the younger woman always feels compelled toward the older woman, and seeks knowledge. These two were modelled from the start on Innocence and Experience as exemplified in Blake’s books of poems of the same name. (In Kali Rules and in Nearer the Trivial Core appears a character, a poet, Ann Marie Aalborg, who goes mad, and whose greatest book of poems is titled Failure.) Following Education of the Virgin (1980-81) appears The Threshold (1982), also known as The Invitation, which, for the first time, codifies these figures and their relationship. The dark woman appears on the right of a threshold, in this case a conduit of water ( water being a barrier between worlds – between, for instance, the living and the dead, [the vampire too, for instance, cannot cross water except by invitation] ).
The younger, lighter woman has made an ascent to the location in which she encounters the other – there is a lush river valley below suggesting that life is lived primarily in this lower plane. The blonde, light woman, is a seeker who has climbed to this high location where the dark woman resides, a cthonic earth-spirit in a cave, further to the right. The location of this meeting at a high altitude owes something to Leonardo: The Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks and Virgin and Saint Anne all are set in Alpine locales. Of these, The Virgin and St Anne is particularly significant to my painting, as Leonardo has placed these figures at the edge of a precipice that not only endangers his figures, but also separates them from us as viewers.
In Leonardo’s paintings, isolation is also an issue: Walter Pater’s submarine Mona Lisa is in fact a creature seated in inaccessible heights, certainly a metaphor for Leonardo’s own mind. In the Threshold, the locale is a place apart, and at the feet of the blonde figure, who is posed as a supplicant, is a stone sphere (a stand-in for the world and particularly for the world as a grinding stone), far below this in a cavity hewn from the red rock are stuffed a dead rabbit, a circular saw blade, some wire and other things. The rabbit is animal (mammal, human) life and reproduction, and the sawblade emblemizes work, and by extension ambition, planning, and all human enterprise. These are to be crushed under the weight of the world in rotation (movement through time). On the other side of the waterstream, where the cthonic figure stands, grows a Star of Bethlehem. This Star of Bethlehem is taken from Leonardo’s drawing of the plant and refers also to my concurrent battle with this same plant as a persistent garden weed. This humble plant is the emblem of that which is born and cannot easily be destroyed, something at once beautiful, and commonplace to the point of undesirability. This is the “lesson” counterpart to the cavity filled with things to be both crushed (destroyed) and mixed (transformed).
Thus also the cave as a dwelling for the dark woman. (Into the twelfth century, the devotees of Artemis/Diana worshipped in caves.) The dark woman lives in this semi-wild place, whereas the blonde woman (a pilgrim or seeker) has traveled here from below – from the sunny and fertile land below. She is pure of heart. This is also true of the model who posed for her, Lynn H., who in part, generated this “character” by way of her own character. Lynn was so unencumbered as a person, so apparently pure of heart, that she was commonly known among artists she posed for as “the Angel.” The dark figure was generally based on Diane P. (Diana, Artemis, Cynthia) who foreshadows her iconic maturity into Kali at a later date ( I do a painting in 1995 called “Diana teaches Kali to Hunt” and include an encounter between these two in a manuscript for a short book “Shiva and Kali” which also appears in part within the larger Kali Rules. The pure supplicant (my female Percival) is kept safe from the dark woman by the channel of water, just as Von Helsing isolates vampires. Bram Stoker claims that the vampire may only cross a threshold when invited by the other. According to my painting, only the pure of heart may dare to invite the vampire (pagan goddess, Kali) and safely share the knowledge of this dark creature. This is an initiation, the beginning of a ritual confirmation of power (or knowledge, insight, what have you) between soon-to-be equals, The contract occurs parallel to the picture plane, the relation of figure to figure is parallel to the picture plane. The contract itself is where the relationship is, between the figures and above the stream of water that divides them. The viewer is in perpendicular relation to this plane, thus the viewer occupies another dimension that interacts with the contract, and this perpendicular relation to the picture plane originated in Joy of Life (1973) and is more encoded in narrative picture space in Mary and Martha (also called Bethany, c. 1978-81).
In Mary and Martha the male figure, perpendicular to the picture plane is also reflected in the glass window depicted in the painting. He is Lazarus and is also the artist. This says that the artist is Lazarus-like and that the viewer is also like the artist in some way and is also like Lazarus. Lazarus’ two sisters have different approaches to living. One sister looks at experience (her grief over her dead brother, in this case) while the second sister looks only at the first – this implying that the second lives in a second-hand way – through the experience of the other. This painting is a painting of a condition. The mirroring of the world before the picture plane by a surface within the picture plane posits a fictional space in place of the ‘real’ space in which the viewer stands.This is an insistence on colonization of the real by the fictitious. Furthermore, it is an insistence on a continuity of space from the most remote spaces in the painting toward the picture plane, one that overspills the barrier of the painting’s surface, to include the world in which we stand, thus claiming us (the viewers) as part of its space, locating us (simultaneously) in a specified imaginary place. In the case of my paintings, this back-to-front force is generated by a sequence of planes that moves toward the threshold of the picture plane, and seeks to overtake it. (My fascination with back-to-front force is what inclines me to be interested in Hans Hofmann’s late works.) Thus, two perpendicular vectors are involved – one between the two women and the other between a man and his reflection – in Mary and Martha – and between a man and the progression of imaginary space to some remote point of origination in the La Vista Totale pictures. In Mary and Martha the regression through space is also a regression through time, as we find reflected in the mirror-window progressively more ancient objects receding toward the horizon. Older and older styles of architecture, for instance, recede from the painting’s spatio-temporal instant, which focuses on one figure turning to look at the other who gazes in our direction toward the imaginary landscape that encloses us and is displayed in the reflection behind her and in front of us. I (we) am Lazarus in this painting; I am reflected but she cannot see me because I am dead and exist in another domain – the domain of the physical place I stand in as I look at the painting. My domain encloses hers – but cannot be seen by her for several seemingly contradictory reasons.
Mary and Martha, 102 x 81, 1979-82
The things that contradict one another in the realm of consistent narrative or rational sense, cohere in the painting, and also in such a sequence of paintings in which it is the constellation and reconstellation of array that creates meaning rather than the linear pathways of plot sequencing or of defensible argument. This factor, and the nonlocality, nonsequentiality it suggests, fit into Bohm’s model of the explicate/implicate order complex. The unreliable or inconsistent, but nevertheless coherent, are principles that appear in both Bohm and Maturana/Varela, in which inconsistency and unreliability are merely expressions of inadequate apprehension. Gordon Pask’s model, based on conversation, always included mystery as a necessary ingredient, and stood, “Against reliability and repeatability,” which I find to be consistent also with Herbert Brun’s dictum:”There is no repetition, only insistence.” These cyberneticians have influenced my work in their decision to allow for proliferation of interpretations, points of view, and even “realities.” Thus, Maturana’s “multiversa” or aggregate of all posited universes, is the background – identical to Bohm’s – against which the actions and stylistic shifts of LVT:apv take place. The shifting of “constellating and reconstellating” array is a reconfiguring, like Varela’s view of evolutionary development as “tinkering” in search of fit.
Further, it suggests Michael Geoghegan’s view of the “new chemistry” as oriented toward fit rather than force and heat as agents of gross change out of which, the desired is one of many products, by products and waste products. This process, in my paintings, is also an outgrowth of Maturana’s “structural drift,” in which organization is conserved by way of structural responsiveness to its medium, whether this medium be the totality of the imaginative structure, the problems of day to day life, or the puzzle of professional or academic success, in a dynamic milieu. In the paintings of LVT:apv the organization is conserved by changing the structure, including the configuration and sequencing of elements. Successive paintings include The Fit. In this painting the lighter figure on the left is an Asian woman. She is Nancy N., my student and studio assistant of the time, whose hair had been dyed a cinnamon color- thus crossing over into the West to which she has physically immigrated from Korea. She is wearing a formal dress, a costume suggesting nineteenth century America or Europe. The dark woman to Nancy’s right is very much darker by degrees, and is in fact the naked, ash-colored and skeletal Kali. She holds up her boney hand toward Nancy, bending it at the wrist. Nancy raises her hand to cup Kali’s – there is a small space between the fit of the two hands. This, the “fit” of the title is also the gesturel of the shift from old chemistry, as exemplified by Michelangelo’s “God creating Adam” about which this painting makes commentary through contrast: One painting is large and public; the other small and intimate.
One painting is of two males, the other of two females. One shows God as Creator; the other shows goddess as inevitable “destroyer.” One shows divine power transferred to anticipating matter, the other shows a mating of human and divine in sacred bond of agreement, “fit,” cooperation. In the La Vista Totale: a partial view series the narrative unfolds very slowly. In the narrative, the dark woman assesses the other ( LVT:apv: The Fit ), even threatens the other LVT:apv: Ceremony in the Forest); overall an underground force is activated as an ouroubouros gives birth to snakes that ascend to claim an imperial orb being transferred from the dark woman to the light woman. In the most recent painting of the series, the light woman (X) has shifted to the position of the dark woman, and the dark woman has “ascended” into the persona of Our Lady of Guadalupe, while the supplicant is now a young man (Noah), a pilgrim with a walking stick and a companion coyote. The narrative is not necessarily linear. The whole collection of images (dark woman, light woman, Indian pipe, water threshold, orb, ourobouros, etc.) is an array, or constellation that reconfigures as it cycles around a narrative core.
The figures are seen through an autistic consciousness: active brightly-colored cells of color are surge-units sweeping through experience-of-reality. Pattern frees itself from fabric. To consensual consciousness this transverbal condition looks like a hallucinatory state. LVT:apv VII Between Amherst and Delphi is the most elaborate and complex painting of the set. As to the iconography: The two models were best friends. As they pose they hold hands and sing to each other. The floral pattern on the dress is inspired by a painting of St Catherine of Alexandria by a Flemish artist and is exhibited in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In this painting (as in the psychedelic version described above ) she has a green flame above her head. Indian pipe (corpseplant) grows from the earth between the two figures indicating that someone is buried on this site. Corpseplant is favored by Emily Dickenson, and an engraving of this “pseudo flower” is the only decoration in her study at Amherst. In Emily’s poem, “The Place”Indian pipe is mentioned: Tis Whiter than an Indian Pipe Tis dimmer than a lace; No stature has it, like a fog When you approach the place.
Amherst and Delphi
These two are related and concern two poets, Emily Dickenson and Kathleen Forsythe. A poem by Emily Dickenson is transcribed in the lower left cartouche: Meeting by accident We hovered by design As often as a century An error so divine Is ratified by destiny But destiny is old And economical of bliss As Midas is of gold. The Cathedral of St Gallen appears below a Wheel of Fire. Wheel of fire. In the upper left is a landscape with a circle in the sky. This circle represents a ‘wheel of fire’ or ‘wheel of energy’ representing the epitome of the plane of reality in which the figures exist. This wheel of energy also serves to connect to other planes or ‘realities’ and thus is iconographically connected to the medallions. In this wheel of fire at least two sets of rotating energies operate: one running clockwise and the other running counterclockwise.
On the iconographic agenda: The iconography in general is constructed according to tenets put forth by Dali in his Paranoiac Critical Method. According to Dali’s method, personal experience donates imagery in the form of emblems and symbols with uncertain, ambiguous, or precise meanings to an ongoing constellation map or array of such imagery, and into a psychological whole. My sources in this general approach are Dali, Blake and Edvard Munch. Personal imagery, informed by the archetypal, arises in an individual’s experience and returns to the archetypal by way of transformation into art.
I credit Munch with originating this approach through his decision to make personal experience the source of artworks meant to have significance for a broad audience; thus, personal experience, separated from shared myth, is re-presented in such a way that it claims to be the new myth, thus also suggesting the role of artist as hero vis-a-vis this proposed myth. As this new myth operates in contradistinction to the established consensual myth, the artist is assured of being underdog and rebel, thus gathering around himself a measure of the general discontent with the culture.
This coalescing discontent forms the basis of a new concensus of which the artist is hero and mythic figure. This rise to dominance is viral in nature and is achieved by way of the successful injection of memes into the cultural bloodstream. In LVT:apv VIII The Crickets. Two globes confront one another through the screen of the chain link fence. Neither globe is the original of which the other is a reflection.The alchemically elevated imperial orb rests on the ground up against the fence, presumably hidden from the sight of the two women. Within the highly colored and vibrating abstraction, insects, including crickets, are meticulously painted in actual size. As to LVT:apv IX Untitled – this version is “definitive” of multistylistic doctrine. A very slowly developing narrative has been examined from the viewpoints of a sequence of “minds” implied by deep variants of style: Between Amherst and Delphi, The Crickets, The Psychedelic (LVT:apv VI) version.
The intention of this painting conceptually was that it would be the most retrogressive and conservative while also being the ultimate, thus defying the progressive expectation of stylistic “development.” In LVT:apv X Skuylkill the veil of maya is thick. It needs cutting. There is a black sword in the sky. Hanging over paradise and incipient empire, it is Kali’s sword, and Arthur’s. In LVT:apv XI Untitled the figures appear as small in a huge garden that suggests the Garden of Paradise. In LVT:apv XII On the Occasion of Donna’s Enlightenment the central figure of this painting is the rotated infinity symbol. This symbol is rotated so that the lines cease to cross and the whole figure begins to open up: It might be possible to look at infinity from a different perspective. If we did this, what would happen? In this painting two infinities intersect. Are they different infinities? Are there various infinities? Limitless numbers of infinities? In this painting, the infinity loops are studded with medallions, each suggesting another reality. Among these realities are a medallion that frames the two figures in their contractual relationship.
A veil of mica ‘cells’ runs in front of the loops. The mica cells, arranged as they are, reference Maturana’s structural coupling extended beyond two entities toward an ecological vision of continuous relatedness. In LVT:apv XIII Ceremony in the Forest the initiating figure on the right has raised a sword, and the blond initiate has lowered her head, offering her neck to the blade. In this painting, the contract has led not to radiant wisdom, but to a beheading in darkness. As LVT:apv XIV The Central Paradise developed, the two figures became nearly submerged in the verdant growth which has taken over everything. A big blue snake appeared unconsciously marking this for me as the garden of Paradise, showing the garden and the two figures (now encrypted Adam and Eve) overwhelmed by temptation ; over the garden is a cruciform organization of medallions, suggesting perhaps, a hope for redemption. A portrait of X is at the center, another portrait of her scarred by the crash, on the right. Concerning LVT:apv XV Two Women Waiting for Frank, I did not paint this painting, but left an unfinished canvas in the studio. It was completed by X, and was a surprise to me. It was an unexpected expansion in fulfillment of the agenda of LVT:apv by placing a partial view outside my own imagination. In LVT:apv XVI Above and Below the dark woman becomes the dark Virgin, and has left the earth. Surrounded by a gallery of four hundred angels, she presides over the union of arriving pilgrim with the newly ordained priestess.
LVT:apv III, Between Amherst and Delphi, detail, 1995
LVT:apv Amherst and Delphi
Anne Schuster Hunter, New Art Examiner, writes: “From figural interiors some years ago to more recent painterly improvisations, Frank Galuszka’s canvases have been surfaces upon which, increasingly, anything can happen. His stylistic vocabulary ranges from representational to indexically actual, and covers the innumerable points of symbolism, decoration, regression and avant-gardism in between: elements of unease, something for everyone to love and hate on principle. Between Amherst and Delphi (LVT: apv II) is a tour de force through visual experience. One of the exhibition’s three related figural works depicting the meeting of two women in a garden – one contemporary, and one the goddess Kali, the Shivite deity of destruction and sometimes renewal – its figures are smoothly, classically modeled in warm, saturated color. But the heavily worked canvas surrounding them provides both a a represented and a real miscellany: seed forms, insects, wax, and Greek letters, scrawled manuscripts on tissue paper (including fragments of an oddly punctuated poem), bits of mica, embedded and seemingly embedded cartouches and seals, a strangely glowing cobra, trompe-l’oeil dewy stones, pictograms disappearing and re-emerging on the laden surface. Clearly, Galuszka’s is a heady art, perhaps informed by his studies in the inter connectedness of ideas and responses (he is a member of the American Society for Cybernetics). Yet his paintings avoid losing the viewer, perhaps because the glittering, oily, glowing beauties of the paintand the tiny, accumulating rewards of close perusal are too compelling. It is as if the painter’s own desire to receive the impact of the painting is heightened in compensation for the intimidating multiplicity of visual codes. The rest of the series “LVT: APV” inevitably suggests an art historical progression. Wissahickon : La Vista Totale: A Partial View IV adheres most strictly to the classical enticements of figure painting, with complexions, rainbows, lilies and grotto rendered in a Giogione-esque glow. In La Vista Totale: A partial View III, the work has exploded into a mottled, heavy surface dominated by patterns and spreading pools of gilt within which the figures,corrupted by paint, are barely discernable. We seem to be following the dissolution of the illusory window of classical representation into its formal surface components, and thereby the liberation of personal, subjective response. But these paintings, provocatively, are numbered in reverse order. If the objective world was exploded by the cubists in 1912, and if art after 1945 liberated the subjective world from communicative intent, do we now go in reverse? Can object and subject be caught once again , or caught and freed over and over? Galuszka answers yes. Indeed, the figureless painting The Crickets (LVT: APV I), with its glorious, dense webbing of surface and illusion, comes even closer to inviting the viewer and viewed to an interlocked dialogue, representing the continuous breaking of the boundaries of subject and object that Galuszka’s art promises.
John B. Ravenal, from “Twenty Philadelphia Artists,” Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1998
Over the past twenty years, Frank Galuszka’s painting has ranged from detailed realism to thickly painted abstraction. Until the late 1980’s his work involved lush narratives marked by vivid, saturated colors, fully modeled figues in convincing spaces, and detailed rendering of objects. These scenes mostly depict single or multiple figures either in interiors or in shallow stagelike foregrounds before glimpses into the distance. They are characterized by moods of stillness, as solitary figures seem to dream, watch, or wait. Communication between figures is caught in a moment of suspension, evident only in a glance or attitude of attention. These are narratives ripe with portent, as if the painting itself were thinking. In the late 1980’s, the surface of galuszka’s paintings began to break up into dense screens of brightly colored paint, what he calls “exploded cellular near-abstraction.” While the predominant effect was that of paint – thick, intense accumulations – these works were never fully abstract, as they contained barely discernable representations of figures and objects, and collaged items such as a coffee-cup lid or bits of reflective mica that enhance the active, shimmering quality of the surface. The buildup of surface incident around these details of reality suggests analogues for an overstimulated vision, as if the image recorded a hallucinatory experience of the visible world.
Galuszka understands these two periods in his work as expressions of the same underlying concerns rather than a simple opposition of figuration and abstraction. In his early narrative works galuszka’s carefully considered attention to form and composition gave them a highly constructed appearance, beyond an easy naturalism. In his later abstract paintings the elaborate working of every bit of the surface results in a high level of variety and intensity that leads us to ubderstand his abstract images as strongly allegorical and bursting with possible meanings. Work from the mid-1990’s returns to naturalistic figures but places them in abstract settings, further complicating the idea of a linear progression from representational to nonobjective. Throughout his career, Galuszka’s images have been motivated by textual associations. He often combines classical, mythological, and biblical sources with contemporary figures and settings. In Bethany, two women in modern dress allude to Mary and Martha from bethany, who in the biblical story called upon Jesus to raise their brother lazarus from the dead. In the painting, a man’s reflection, perhaps alluding to the returning lazarus, appears in the window. As with many of Galuszka’s works, an aura of the past seems to pervade, even comment on, the present, regardless of whether one grasps the narrative allusion. Galuszka says that he has his own ” long reverie about what the painting is about É (but) this does not mean at all that I want anyone else to think that this is what the painting is about.” He further explains, “I try to paint paintings that have enough ingredients in them to result in a good story, but not in such a way that they determine what the story is. For me, two readings of this painting are both equally legitimate.”
Bethany, 106 x 80, 1982
Patricia Albers,”Out of the Earth,” Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, 2002
In 1938 British writer C.S. Lewis published Out of the Silent Planet – allegorical novel, science fiction saga, and fuel for the creative imagination of painter Frank Galuszka. In Lewis’ story, the kidnapped Dr, Ransom is taken hostage to the planet Malacandra. On landing in alien territory and finding himself surrounded by colors that at first “(refuse) to form themselves into things,” he realizes he “(knows) nothing yet well enough to see it: you cannot see things till you know roughly what they are.” When extraterrestrials materialize, Ransom perceives hideous bogy-men. Yet, as he begins to feel affection and respect for the creatures, they metamorphose into eye-pleasers. In Lewis’s Neoplatonic lexicon, one perceives only the appearances of things, never the things themselves. Seeing is a complex process including intuition, memory, emotion, and analysis as much as visual stimuli; we must be wary of what our senses tell us. In probing the relationship between looking and understanding, Lewis stirs questions inherent in Galuszka’s paintings. Painter Frank Galuszka, for his part, is pursuing not a new thing but a new relationship between his painting and reality. Schooled in Renaissance techniques (such as modeling and linear perspective) and mindful of the Renaissance idea of painting as an illusory window on the world, Galuszka has, over the years, produced an oeuvre that defies attempts at stylistic classification. An intense and restless artist who oscillates between figuration and abstraction, he spills onto his canvases brimming cornucopias of ideas, forms, and impastoed pigments. With the works exhibited here he firmly shuts the Renaissance’s metaphoric window. His ambition: to narrow the gap between painting and reality, to create an image that interacts with the real world, to offer not a picture but rather something akin to “the thing itself.” To do so, Galuszka employs several pictorial strategies. For instance, he makes his canvases large enough to be presences and sets up fields as dimensionless, diaphonous, and chromatically subtle as stirred sheens of golden dust. Seeking analogies for life’s agitation and mutability, he blurs traditional figure-ground relationships, depicting half-forms that drift and quiver, always on the verge of submersion. As for the subject lurking within (as within all abstract art), it is indistinct and ambiguous in orientation and scale: cell clusters, perhaps, or sun-lit streambeds, archipelagos, moons or nebulae – or all of the above. Time insinuates itself through Perelandra’s coils, for instance, suggesting calendrical spirals or star maps, and what could be vestiges of antiquity in End of Rome or Delphi in Snow. Galuszka achieves his dazzling effects in part through the use of mica: he not only mixes powdered mica into his pigments but also glues mica chips (gathered outdoors or cut from commercially availabe sheets onto the canvases. In what the artist describes as an evolutionary process, these are arranged in glowing biomorphic clumps, which might them be painted, scraped, added to, and repainted. Realworld objects extracted from the earth, the chips are also, like the gold tesserae biomorphic clumps, which might them be painted, scraped, added to, and repainted. Realworld objects extracted from the earth, the chips are also, like the gold tesserae that encrust Byzantine mosaics, pools of immaterial light or, to rephrase poet Hart Crane’s description of the sea, small winks of eternity. And their mirrored surfaces act as a feedback loop, a notion drawn from cybernetics, the science of complex systems that is Galuszka’s conceptual framework for his artmaking. As such, they remind us of the dynamic interconnectedness of everything and establish reciprocity with the viewer who necessarily supplies a share of any work of art’s meaning. Re-enter Dr. Ransom and the precarious, confounding, delightful matter of seeing.
Robin Rice, Philadelphia City Paper
In Frank Galuszka’s painting Between Amherst and Delphi a blond girl and a mysterious dark woman in a chinese hat exchange a bejeweled orb surmounted by a cross. The transcendentalist interaction takes place outdoors (at the Wissahickon, if the title of another version of this painting holds for this one), among lilies, tiny mushrooms and a cacophony of other growing things. The margins of the scene dissolve into a dazzle of light and golden color enhanced by mirrors, creating a tunnel-like composition which draws us into the picture.. The paintings I liked best as a child created worlds with a mass of detail suggestive of the visually complex world we actually inhabit. I would have been fascinated by Amherst and Delphi then as I am now. Galuszka’s creation is hardly naive – it includes allusions for the literati – but its central messages are accessible to anyone who takes the time to look and think. In The Crickets, a mountain of gold, lacy foliage and phosphorescent fungi both conceals and generates a pair of figures, once again involved in a cryptic exchangeÉ. Galuszka’s concern for color, representation and pure pyrotechnics reminds us of what traditional Western painting is all about.