Josh Foley

For my upcoming exhibition at Despard Gallery in Hobart, those attending the opening will be on the occasion of my fortieth birthday. I will be presenting a series of landscapes that investigate the forms of various built and natural locations via the idiosyncratic vision I’ve developed over the past fifteen years.

The task of writing about one’s process is a fraught one. For myself, there are many shifts of method and material between each exhibition and each picture that, by the time I’ve written this sentence, a new way of approaching the question of how to paint may have emerged.

I remember, during my studies at university, when my painting project was still framed by classical surrealist tropes (Ernst, Dali, Tanguy), I would ruminate furiously on what novel ways there were to paint? And now it seems, the question is endless…

I have an emerging interest in atmosphere and how that affects the way we interact with the environment. My paintings focus on matter and perceptual information. Within these fields I have been occupied with illusions of depth, using painting to create the appearance of relief space. This approach sees me now more frequently create sculptural frames and sections within a work that embed my illusions within actual relief space. For this purpose, I use Milliput, a sculpting medium which dries hard as a rock.

For my solo show After Image, at the Metro Gallery, Melbourne in November 2022, I focused on the genre of still life predominately as subjects for my experiments. This involved first generating a series of complicated digital collages using adobe photoshop and mashing together a diverse range of visual elements, including antique furniture, optical illusions, and classical still life paintings. Then this was processed a number of times through inkjet printing, ink painting, flatbed printing, acrylic painting, and using house paint – finally finishing the works with a number of layers of oil paint.

For my upcoming show at Despard Gallery I turn my gaze intently upon landscape. It will be called Hyper Landscape. This “hyper” is such that, in our distracted current moment, nothing stays settled it seems for long – objects, people, politics and time shift around relentlessly – seeking and searching. There is an overwhelmingness: and landscape is not immune to this. But hyper, like the term manic, are positive locus points for my outlook, because I get bored: I need a lot of input. And this generates quite a bit of output too.

The process of these works will be simplified. The current process involves using a photographic image and projecting it onto a board. Then with black exterior high gloss house paint, I will conjure the forms projected anew, using flicks of the wrist and intuitive gestures that imagine the scene as if the individual elements were becoming reduced to a novel materiality. This materiality, I have been attempting to describe, is something of a hybrid between the viscous nature of oil paint, the fleshy incarnations and intimations of the body, the visceral and the contrasting textural appearances of all known matter . . . including more recently, a focus on the atmosphere that surrounds this. I enhance the colours, I distil the forms and cook the perceptual data: into visual substances that will be injected, smoked or ingested through the eyes, creating either paranoia or ecstasy, depending on the psyche of the audience participant.

After the initial transcription of the shapes from the photographic image into a gestural monochromatic image created with housepaint, I use acrylic paint to build the colour, ink to refine the forms again – airbrush to soften them, and then I repeat this until the final stage of oil painting. I glaze colour over the work and use tiny brushes to add highlights of titanium white.

I use hypoxia to stimulate and excite my neurons: breath holding. Meditation via this method of mental transformation dissolves the boundaries between my environment and my mind. Receiving a non-dualistic sense of being, I become a pulse within universal vexations and bliss. I combine this with another practice important for my inspiration . . . floating. By isolating within a floatation chamber, I can transport myself into cosmic nothingness – another term for everything. Combined with the breath holding, I achieve a sensation of floating vertically in space.

This article was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 63

Hyper Landscape
28 June – 22 July, 2023 
Despard Gallery, Hobart

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