Trevor Kiernander: Relative Detachments
Floating isolated on flat single-toned backgrounds, the figures in Trevor Kiernander’s paintings are unhindered by references to time, space, and environment. By fracturing images from pop culture, personal memories, and art history, Kiernander takes figures and objects out of their original context and into an alternate plane. The current media-driven society has created a world in which everyone carries a high level of visual literacy and automatic assumptions about visual relationships. Kiernander’s works offer a moment of pause in which expectations of these visual affiliations are no longer relevant. Freed from the constraints of specific context, the viewer is allowed to create their own path through the work. The viewer quickly recognizes artistic quotations: a pieta composition, the tonal depth of a Rothko in the monochromatic backgrounds, still life compositions of Dutch allegorical painting, the painterly brush strokes of the Impressionists, or the figural work of the photo-realists. But, outside of their expected framework, these quotations open new possibilities. The viewer is able to question the relationship between subject and ground and the importance of art historical allusions while coming to their own conclusions about the narrative.
Kiernander also plays with the theoretical “Gaze” in works like Jimmy and Charlie Shoot the Shit. Covering a figure’s head with a paper bag, he comments on issues of access. Although the viewer is still aware of where the figure’s face is located and in which direction the figure is focusing its attention, easy consumption of the face/personality of the subject is obstructed. Such pieces work through psychological issues of observation – wanting to be seen versus hiding oneself from scrutiny.
Recently, Kiernander’s work has become increasingly focused on medium. Paint is no longer a tool for creating imagery; it is a subject/character itself. In a transcendent blend of the abstract and the figurative, paint takes on a life of its own. It seeps from areas of the canvas, shows through the clothing of certain figures, interacts with other characters in the tableau, and morphs from the body parts of figures. At times, chalk outlines are left “unfinished,” rendering artistic methods visible and making the process of painting yet another entity in the work.
Trevor Kiernander also works as a DJ/Producer of House music. The sampling and remixing inherent to electronic music production parallel the process of Kiernander’s painting. He selects ideas and images from many different sources in order to construct fresh, innovative compositions. Like his music, his works create a cutting-edge vibe by assimilating fragments of our culture.