Patrick Grugan Arts
I make 2D mixed media work using photo imagery, oil paint, and sometimes glass and light. My present work is a series called Research and Development. Within this series, I am making pieces that utilize color, texture, patterns, and surface in order to create a visual language with which to explore technology, capitalism, and biological life on the planet, and the tensions in the relationships between the three. It seems to me that I belong to a culture that’s lost its awareness of our inter-connections with the natural world. Our culture values profit above all else, and seems to be willing to destroy our long term future (and that of lots of other species) to get it. This work is part of an ongoing response to this context.

Specifically, I’m composing on square supports of varied sizes and using a layered approach: first, I transfer digital images onto the support and then paint over them in transparent and opaque layers of oil paint. These digital images are technologically-oriented and appropriated from the Internet: microscopic views of computer and nano-technology or biological phenomena like cells or bacteria, as well as macroscopic views, such as satellite images or planetary surfaces. These views, and the decision to look, reveal patterns and structures that I find fascinating. The way cells and compounds on one hand, and whole planetary surfaces on the other, arrange themselves reveals a higher logic or a higher order. This order is for me a working definition of what the sacred is.

The technological aspect of these images present an interesting tension: at the same time that technology is providing us the means to destroy nature, it also gives us the means to see aspects of nature that we couldn’t otherwise see, to be awake to what the physical world really is. This work explores that tension. In addition, many of these images come from institutions like NASA, university science departments, and other research venues. Appropriating these images and knowledge for public consumption is an important aspect to this series.

In terms of the works’ aesthetic, the visual pleasure comes from the interplay between pattern, color, texture, and surface. I choose these images not simply for content, but also for the patterns and textures that I find beguiling. The transparent color painted over the digital imagery tends to be dark, but saturated and jewel-like, giving the pieces a depth and glow. Layers of opaque color tend to anchor the pieces in space, create surface texture, and provide comment and connotations for the digital images. The aim of the play of color and pattern is to engage the viewer in an inviting and stimulating way, even as they consider difficult issues.

This series truly is a research and development project—I’m operating in a more experimental way than I usually favor, and the results aren’t pre-determined. My goals for this project are to explore the intersection between the wonder of the physical world and my deep concern at the political and economic one.