ART Magazine. San Antonio, Texas.
“I love the heroic versus vulnerable nature of half nude bodies standing at a precipice of activity. I am compelled by the embryonic life giving nature of water versus the struggles and fears it deals with”.
After eight years of experimenting with other subjects (cowboys, landscapes, horses, and the human figure), painter Sky Patterson revisits the Swimmer series, which he began working with in 2001. Swimming Pool, curated by the Director of UTSA Art Gallery Scott Sherer, presented a mix of several large-scale and intimate colorful paintings.
The series portray the iconic image of the swimmer in an abstracted yet representational manner that visually narrate a scene, yet do not offer a particular story. The bright swatches of color are applied unpredictably on the canvas deconstructing the plane and the representational quality of his rendered subjects. Paint is not the medium to create a figure; instead, paint is used as another component in the painting where, just as the swimmers, paint becomes a subject that the artist deals with. The colored shapes become part of the narrative and the figure. These blocks of color also serve to break the space into surreal environments that are fun yet confusing. The swimmers are depicted in many different sceneries that suggest a story that might or might not be true. Some of the imagined narratives could be a swimmer getting prepared for a race, a swimmer in danger who had to be dragged out of the pool, or a group of cold swimmers after just coming out of the pool. However, these stories might not be true. The scenes depicted offer the exact amount for the viewer to imagine a story, yet they do not encourage or discourage the veracity of any particular narrative. In the same manner, the artist’s use of color lies in an ambiguous light, where there is a darkness and fearful vibe, yet evoking fun and a good time.
The swimmer image has a vintage quality to it because of its popularity in the 40s and 50s. This image of the happy swimmer (mainly women) began to be used in advertising as a way to show models in revealing clothes without being “pornographic”. Besides swimming photography, there are some other references to the swimmer imagery that can be made within Art History. There are some cave paintings in Egypt that depict a group of swimmers attacking an animal emphasizing the survival aspect of the action, a painting by Karl Hubbuch titled The Swimmer of Cologne from 1926, which depicts a swimmer standing in a courageous yet fearful pose with the Cathedral of Cologne as background , or The Swimmer by Alex Katz from 1974, which similarly to Patterson, depicts the subject in a state of either extreme effort or danger in a very ambiguous setting. However, the darkness associated with the swimmer is very well emphasized on Patterson’s work through the emotional and psychological effects of not only color, but through his sound choice of content elements. In a more contemporary abstracted way, the decomposition of the rendered subjects and landscapes into color and shape emphasize the feeling of mystery and of not being able to grasp the whole truth. His masterful use of color and shape within the swimmer image create a unique tension between the heroic and vulnerable subject that disconcerts the viewer in its imagined narrative.
Swimming Pool will be on display until August 18. For more information please go to bluestarart.org