I've always found layers interesting (see the collage page), so much so that this imagery works its way into my drawings and paintings. I see in layers potential for different textures, transparencies, boundaries, and visual presence, not to mention chronology. The effect of creating a layered space suggests some kind of temporal ordering of events. Experience reinforces in us the idea that things that happen earlier than other things occur closer to the bottom of the accumulation.
Much like sediments layered in horizontal beds that eventuate in rocks, layers are intimated by mark/color placement. In geology, this history-as-vertical-position, (vertikalegeschichte) is known as the principle of superposition. So in this way the sort of image above operates in ways a geological history would. A fundamental difference being that rocks form from the bottom up and my images often begin from the "top" down. The construction of the picture is near to far, as though reverberations move into the past by way of quasi-concentric shapes. The formation of the drawn image is in opposition to that of the collage, which doesn't permit construction from top to bottom (so far).
When I make a layer or apply a shape (by whatever means) I want it to endure (at least partially) through the change of the whole image, to continually influence/contribute to the construal of the whole. By being able to put the "bottom" lower-most elements in near the end of the picture's development (chronologically) I'm able to construct an experience/history on a time scale that runs conversely to that of the intended viewer's. What will become read as the most recent in a series of receding events, was often drawn first, of technical necessity.
This isn't a rule though, merely a tendency observed, but one born out many times in my work and interesting because it makes me think of the order of causation. We tend (rightly so) to think of the past as it informs and shapes the present and future, whereas in the work above, the present-most-current has the ability to affect that perceived as past. A temporal travel (travail even?) made possible by very few experiences, moving near to far, now to before.
My fascination with layering continues/extends into thoughts about past events and their present effects. Collage lends itself to obliterating past events on the surface. Simply paste over the past. The enduring presence is limited to slight embossing of the layers above by the edges of those below. Oil pastel in contrast affords a fluid revisiting of earlier efforts. Successive layers of oil pastel obscure but don't completely restrict unearthing of the past (albeit incomplete). What already happened must be uncovered carefully by scraping away (sgraffito) the present experience shaping/distracting element. Only through the sometimes-near-trauma of removal from the present do we access the "past" or minimally its stain/echo. Once uncovered we can let it endure as a visual reminder of what's transpired and, if appropriate, a revived shaping influence on the present and future.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.