The human figures living within Joshua Meyer’s canvases are beautifully unresolved. Thick layers of paint work to articulate fleeting forms, flirting with realism, but ultimately approaching and confronting the limits of our knowledge.
“As I paint, I try to find my way by plunging deeply and directly into the paintings,” Meyer explains. “I revel in the paint and the chaos and I tend to get lost. The only way out is to invent and explore.”
Meyer’s constant making and remaking of the real is undergirded by his remarkable ability to implicate the viewer in the creative process. As each composition’s single, central figure dematerializes from a dense nest of brushstrokes into a pictorial space on the edge of abstraction, the audience is invited to play an active role in reconstructing the progressively open images. But at the heart of each canvas there is also a vulnerability. This gentle silence is the artist’s acknowledgement that our desire to understand those around us can never be fully consummated, that the best we can hope for are halting, humble steps towards genuine comprehension.
“Truth is fragile. I leave my paintings open and a bit unstable because they are actively grappling with the world around them,” Meyer explains, alluding to the tenuousness of knowledge and the swiftness with which our understandings about the world, others, and ourselves can dissipate. “I prefer the absurdity of painting to the absurdity of not painting,” concludes the artist.
“Looking at a Meyer painting means changing your mind about what you see,” according to novelist Allegra Goodman. “Only gradually do I discern the figures in his work. They emerge slowly, rewarding a second and third glance. Coming into their own, they transform the color all around them. As living people do, Meyer’s subjects will reveal themselves, and they will disappear. Look at them up close and they scatter, self-effacing. Back away and they gather force and gravity. Back away a little more. Give Meyer’s figures space, and they’ll possess the room.”