Enough scholarly attention paid to the canvases of Ben Duax would probably uncover a plethora of art-historical signifiers. Flashes of Matisse’s sunbathers or the weighty carcasses of Francis Bacon and Schiele’s skeletal linearity may appear in Duax’s compositions alongside the destructive, adolescent gestures of Appel or Jorn. Despite this evidence of painterly tradition, the enormity of cultural influences that affect both the style and content of these works ensures a visual language that thoughtfully weaves disparate pieces of figuration with peculiar abstract counterparts that simultaneously supply their form and threaten them with erasure.
The title itself translates as the famed Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe expressed in Gaelic, a nearly disused language salvaged from the brink of obscurity, like much of Duax’s imagery, with similarly ambiguous intent. Inspired by the bilingual subway and parking signage of Glasgow’s ancient streets, Lón air an Fheur meanders the curiously mundane, beautiful, and sometimes absurd icons that populate this urban architecture. Though these canvases possess an unexpected visual appeal, Duax’s luncheon may be just as compositionally challenging to our aesthetic standards as the original, where antiquated masterpieces and contemporary figures lay perplexingly throughout a reformatted landscape. A multitude of imaging techniques, including traditional photography, risograph duplications, digital wand scans, and reactive dye prints are employed to produce the final composition often overlaid by conventional painting.
Rather than dissecting the symbols entwined in each work, viewers might linger upon the nuances that result from unraveling the distinctions that once structured our dubious visual lexicon. Lón air an Fheur presents a data-sphere of painterly gestures that necessitate a more grandiose project than simply digging up the belabored icons of art-historical academics. It poses an opportunity to reinvent the principles of taste, manners, and culture embedded in the visual history of modern life itself suddenly on the threshold of an unimaginable degree of digital immersion.
Originally from the Bay Area in California, Ben Duax works out of New York and Glasgow. He graduated with a BFA from Hunter College in Painting and an MFA from the University of Glasgow in Fine Art. This is his first exhibition at Hyacinth Gallery.