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Scott Sawtell

Gas, Wood and Fire

2010, Oil on canvas, 64"w x 48"h

There must be categorizations and limitations for history to function. Museums and textbooks confine items and images in glass cases and pages to be itemized, classified and compartmentalized. The ways in which we define ourselves through imagery and objects is fascinating to me. As I walk through museums, I am struck by the separation that I feel from the objects. Even though the rooms are categorized into floors and display cases and didactics, all of the artifacts tend to flow with one another. This feeling is accentuated more when I get my pictures home or when I remember my experience afterward.

This division between the meaning of the object or image and the meaning of the presentation is the basis for my current body of work. The work presented is from the War Museum’s collection. It is an image of a tank juxtaposed with the image of an Egyptian mummy. The image is then fractured, combined and abstracted. The abstraction serves three purposes. Firstly, it ruptures the picture which makes the painting self-referential. This self-reference illustrates the tension between the object and the artist’s personal experience. Secondly, the abstraction mirrors real life experience. The origin of the abstraction might be a glare on the lens, the structure of the display cases or reflections in the glass. This takes the attention away from the object and instead focuses attention on the artifice of its surroundings. Thirdly, it frees the objects from their conceptually limiting, modernist cases. In a supposedly post-colonial, post-political and historical world, non-hierarchal and anarchic imagery offers reasonable alternatives.


Scott Sawtell - Gas, Wood and Fire

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