Ian Swanson at David Shelton

January 7th, 2017|

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Artist: Ian Swanson

Exhibition title: cynics milk

Venue: David Shelton, Houston, US

Date: November 18 – December 23, 2016

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and David Shelton, Houston

In “cynics milk”, Ian Swanson’s combination of a broad range of mediums, materials and processes­­­­­, along with visual metaphors of selfhood that issue a sense of reality parallel to life, actively defies overt categorization. Thematically, these works embody a sense of reticent nihilism and sentimentality endemic to our time, while hovering explicitly in their ambiguity between brutality and sweetness — a universal spirit of the tension implicit in darkness and light, life and death.

Realism is introduced through elements and source materials that are abstracted, distorted or removed. Any sort of nuance that might suggest ethereal or romantic resonance is turned back onto the viewer, whom is left to determine its relevance within the actuality of life.

This reversal of the gaze is most explicit in Swanson’s Aging series. These paintings are an on-going project of auto-portraits that reflect cultural and personal anxieties, many outside of our control. Other paintings venture closer to allegory or genre scenes through the use of more direct imagery and the placement of figures in dynamic settings. His newest works are based on found photography that is both directly and indirectly translated within the compositional approach. While Worm Rose is painted more realistically, Divine Eye exhibits a cinematic quality. This quality is also present in varying degrees in the works overall, introduced by a recent convention of horizontal compositions. Crawling Troll, the sole sculpture in the exhibition, is a deliberate figure titled after a hybrid word that refers to a mythical creature, a fishing term or, more recently, a type of Internet bully. Swanson, who has been making “troll” sculptures in different forms for many years, was influenced by his Swedish grandfather, a wood carver who made “troll-like” figures.

Swanson received his BFA from Wayne State University in Detroit and his MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Recent exhibitions include Simone DeSousa Gallery, Detroit; Ashes/Ashes, Los Angeles; Welcome Screen, London; David Shelton Gallery, Houston; and Bosi, New York. Swanson currently lives and works in Brooklyn. “cynics milk” is his first solo exhibition with the David Shelton Gallery.

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Ian Swanson, Crawling Troll, 2016, PVC, foam, sculptamold, PCL plastic, amethyst, tigers eye, gold necklace and charm

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Ian Swanson, Crawling Troll, 2016, PVC, foam, sculptamold, PCL plastic, amethyst, tigers eye, gold necklace and charm

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Ian Swanson, Crawling Troll, 2016, PVC, foam, sculptamold, PCL plastic, amethyst, tigers eye, gold necklace and charm

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Ian Swanson, Pan’s Anthem (faux panacea), 2016
Acrylic, rubber, inkjet transfer on linen, 30 x 22 inches

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Ian Swanson, Divine Eye, 2016, acrylic on felt, 62 x 46 inches

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Ian Swanson, Woman on the Shore (allegory for psychic retreat), 2016
Acrylic and felt on linen, 47 x 63 inches

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Ian Swanson, Aging 11, 2016
Acrylic, graphite, carbon, mica, on linen hybrid, 54 x 46 inches

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Ian Swanson, Aging 12, 2016
Acrylic, graphite, carbon, mica, on linen hybrid, 54 x 46 inches

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Ian Swanson, Our Departure (allegory for financial collapse), 2016, acrylic, pumice, rubber on canvas, 64 x 104 inches

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Ian Swanson, Worm Rose, 2016
Acrylic on dibond in maple artist frame, 16 x 12 inches

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Ian Swanson, Worm Rose(2), 2016
Acrylic on dibond in maple artist frame, 16 x 12 inches