Amanda Dunbar
Artist Statement
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Artist Statement

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In describing aesthetics, the American philosopher John Dewey claimed the most powerful works of art spring from our everyday experience. In other words, there exists no exalted realm from which art emerges. Rather, our everyday life yields the beautiful if we take the time to look. When I began my artistic journey at an early age, I had not yet read these words, yet drew from a similar idea: taking the everyday and finding the beauty therein. Now, as an older and more seasoned artist, I find myself still drawn to this idea. Something so wonderful abounds when translating daily existence into paint, and something profound about learning how much one shares in common with other people when you share those paintings. A subject deemed “worthy” of being made into a work of art offer the artist and viewer an opportunity to engage with the motif differently.

Though I have experimented in various artistic media ranging from intaglio printmaking and silkscreens to ceramics, I find that oil paint continues to have an allure that I find irresistible. Oil paint loans itself to countless effects and possibilities. As a medium that also encapsulates a long history of meaning and tradition amongst some of the foremost painters in the world, it already comes to us as a loaded, rich vehicle for artistic thought. As such, and as an artist pointedly concerned with art historical discourse, I find that oil paint allows me to express a decidedly nuanced approach to the appearance of everyday landscapes and figures that speaks to both the contemporaneity of subject while paying homage to those historical artists who have shaped my practice.

It is important to me that I respect the viewer’s dignity, spirituality and humanity while conveying my experience predominantly through color, texture that still plays upon the representational. My goal has always been to create works that could be understood and interpreted on a number of levels: the purely sensual (through my use of rich colors and deceptively simple subject matter,) and in a way that continues to interest the viewer when considered on a more conceptual level. It is the more complex work of art that forces the viewer to become actively involved in the reconstruction of the piece and invites continuous contemplation of possible meanings. We are less interested, ultimately, in the simplistic, as it fails to challenge the imagination. Great works of art force us to digest them slowly over time, through continuous revisiting.

Recently, I have begun to move away from the primarily representational focus of landscapes in my paintings derived from the visual schema of Impressionism, towards a more abstract approach that encompasses grids within a single canvas and multiple canvases or “tiles” of varying degrees of finish. My goal with the combination of these canvases seen both as independent paintings and then combined as a larger image is aimed at making explicit for the viewer that they become an integral element towards the “completion” of the art work, as well as a challenge to consider landscape painting as a vehicle for philosophical contemplation. This approach also has allowed me to explore – often within a single work of art – a multitude of ways to play with a single image in a way that pushes the expressive potential of the medium, and to experiment with different methods of depiction.

Amanda Dunbar