“Figures” presents a series of new works on paper by Eric Fischl, currently on view at Skarstedt Gallery London. These works stage and reflect on human interactions against an expanse of the horizon line at the seaside. A pivotal theme in his acclaimed figurative works, the beach here provides a setting for inadvertent proximity, unfulfilled desires, and fleeting intentions.
As Fischl explains, “The beach is a boundary, a border. It is, metaphorically, the edge of where we came from and cannot return. What better place to set dramas that deal with the disappointment of pleasure, the impossibility of sustained union, the public display of the sensual body?”
In this new series of drawings, a practice which Fischl describes as being both for exploration as well as for pleasure, the artist presents compositions which embody movement but suggest an uncertainty of its ultimate course.
Executed on glossy photographic paper, which enables an ease and glide of the brush, these works possess a sensual fluidity. Within the single figure watercolours, the artist controls the edges of the figure whilst allowing the paint to flow, puddle, and blend inside those edges, suggesting but without defining the flesh, muscle and bone.
Traversing the space in animated postures, the visibly cut-out figures enveloped in a contour of white space remain decidedly separated from the space they occupy. Here, Fischl deliberately shows his working methods evoking the early series of ‘Glassines’ (1977-82) – collaged drawings on film-like paper which heralded his trademark technique.
Fischl’s process, in fact, has always been rooted in collage, he takes figures whose body language speaks to him in ways that naturally generate narrative associations, and says “collage is the way that I build a meaningful moment.” Situating his ready-made protagonists in the pictorial space, Fischl points at the fragility of visual narratives and meditates on the degree of contingency in an apparently close encounter.
“These new works are exploring small moments; moments of proximity and exchange between two or more people. I am measuring the space between the characters to find the point where failure to connect becomes part of the equation. Is there a pulling away or a holding onto? Is there a sharing of the moment of play, pleasure, joy or does it only appear to be shared? These are the kinds of questions I continually ask of myself as I watch the characters I’ve created.”
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