b. 1984, Portland, Oregon; Lives and works in New York
Helvie's work deals directly with the act of seeing, obsessive looking, and optical ambiguity. Pulling from art history, television and film, his paintings act as props and icons: objects that glean meaning from their context and point to a larger system of understanding.
His newest series, Leviathan, presents a group of eight new, photorealist paintings, four years in the making. Begun in 2014 as a series of works originally created in response to Philip Roth’s, Portnoy’s Complaint, Helvie employed thickly layered oil paint, sprayed enamel and printed fleece fabric, pressed directly into the wet surface of the paintings. The resulting “Pipe Smokers,” once finished, were then repainted with each gestural mark and collaged surface element rendered in a single layer of black and white oil on canvas. The resulting work sits in a limbo, hovering somewhere between the realm of “original” paintings and the tradition of photographic reproduction.
The paintings included in the series, O, capture loading Instagram images initially taken as screen captures from the artist's personal feed and then painstakingly rendered in oils. The paintings seamlessly move between abstraction and photorealism, presenting a foggy and filtered reality where all subjects are equally obscured. These purposefully unclear compositions, still “loading”, present a peaceful limbo. The image will never become clear and we are left contemplating an indistinct, albeit richly painted middle ground.
The result is a body of work that simultaneously elicits tension and reflection. In contrast to the immediacy of social media and the digital age, Helvie’s paintings offer an inherent slowness: in order to really see the image, they demand patience, submission and meditative appreciation. By isolating the image from its context, captions, and comments, the artist removes any narration and offers viewers the pure essence of the image. Choosing to only present the "loading" circle centered and floating in a cloudy square, Helvie nods towards a timelessness outside of our specific reality.
See Artist CV: here
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