Birch Contemporary

Howard Podeswa: Still Life with Paper


Works in the exhibition

"To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see." - Giorgio Morandi

Since the U.S. election, I’ve found it impossible to ignore the turmoil it has wrought; yet, with the onslaught of frightening newsfeeds, my reaction as an artist has been to retreat from overt narrative – an unexpected departure from the representationalism that characterized my work previously.  

The works in this exhibition were originally inspired by The Subway Therapy Project – an installation of Post-It notes, placed by commuters on a wall in New York’s Union Square subway station to express their feelings about the current state of affairs in the U.S. While initially drawn to the text of the messages, my attention gradually turned to the paper they were written on, exploring their surfaces in paint and focusing on the small clues that distinguish them from abstract shapes and identify them as Stlll Lifes - objects in space, whose very imperfections present a frozen snapshot of their makers. I’ve removed the text from the resulting images in order to focus on these qualities, but restored the messages in the works’ titles in order to preserve their authors’ original intent. This fascination with paper led me to further explore the opportunities it provided to tackle, in a distilled form, the fundamental issues of Still Life and observational painting. Included in this exhibition are the results of these explorations, including "Still Life Exercises", a series of oil studies of sheets of paper that have been bent and shaped according to the instructions laid out in an early 20th century art-instruction manual.- Howard Podeswa, August 29, 2017