The Organic/Vortex series by John Gamboa

Artist’s Statement:

The Spirit of the Work: This series of paintings represents years of developing not only a personal style, but a new technique for creating a sustainable series of exciting paintings. Although I am usually alone when I paint, I only create these pieces when I am in a performer’s state of mind; these pieces are the result of physical activity that is focused, intense and emotionally vulnerable, as I feel either thrills or frustration with them as they are transformed from molten chaos into radiant order.

I use the term “Organic” for any of my images that neither represent nor are abstracted from some real subject, but are entire compositions that grow spontaneously and innocently of themselves. Although I prepare the ground and select the colors with care, once I am actually working with the paint on the panel, I watch what develops with minimal guidance. I also use the term organic because many of these paintings look like flowers or some other living thing and I wish to evoke that association.

The term “Vortex” refers specifically to my organic pieces created by cutting spiral patterns into thick oil paint.  

Technical Considerations: The mark-making impulse is given full throttle here; I build up a deep surface of paint to carve into so that the spirit, intensity and detail of each mark is respected. Color is the background and the mark is the subject. These paintings are all done on panels because the stroke is carved into the wet paint with various tools including palette knives; on a hard surface I can use very light or such strong pressure that stretched canvas would distort or possibly be cut.

As an ex-musician (a drummer), I especially enjoy exploring basic patterns made by repetition and the more complex interference patterns created as different basic patterns merge. I admire natural systems that repeat simple steps toward astonishing complexity.

Many of these pieces are painted on a special gold background that causes the oil paint to crackle as it dries. I feel that this effect adds an “antique” quality to the work, and the gold is reminiscent of religious icons, which for me adds a spiritual dimension to the conversation. Some of the paintings in this series that are not painted on a gold background were under-painted with solid colors or patterns and allowed dry thoroughly before the next layer was applied and worked with the palette knife.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of producing these pieces is the sheer volume of paint used. After many years of figure-painting, I seem to have developed a habit of hoarding paint, using it sparingly and clinging to a “precious” paradigm regarding my materials. This series breaks that boundary. These works depend on and are endowed with a lush, rich and liberating abundance of paint; to be quite sure, once I have emptied an entire tube of pure, intense color onto a panel, my sense of commitment to it is total. All these pieces are then finished with a gloss varnish.

My intent: I think of these spinning, circular patterns as free-form “mandalas” that draw the eye in and induce a swirling fascination that can hopefully be experienced as a wholesome break in the normal stream of conscious thought. I enjoy thinking as much as the next person, but I also enjoy sharing the moments of spell-bound wonder I experience as I create these strange and wonderful pieces.

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