Gallerynote 1/2008

January 18 to March 1, 2008

associations as well as sounds, moods, formed from color, embodied in color. In and through the eyes of Joseph Egan, being an artist is not merely a matter of acting and doing, but rather an attitude. This wholly determines his relationship with the world and with art. It puts him in the role of observer who has an instrument at his disposal that he learned to use, that of color. Color is illumination. In the sense of bringing something to light, making it visible, revealing. The color is the indicator that focuses the attention of the painter. Light and shadow are states of color, as it were. Sections of paint are special color points and each locality is shaped by a color atmosphere all its own.

From periods spent in Aix en Provence, in Le Cannet, Nice and Vence, J.E. brings precious recollections and findings back to his studio in Ziegelbrücke. Such geographies are inscribed with the names of Cézanne, Bonnard and Matisse. These connections are important and intentional. Of greater importance is the fact that these painters have shaped the way of looking at their landscapes just as much as they themselves were shaped by these landscapes.

Morvan in Burgundy and Procida, a small island in the Bay of Naples, are other destinations to which a multitude of works of painting on paper owe their existence. In nearly all cases, the formal composition of the sheets resembles a window. Looking out, looking inward? This remains open. In any case, the window is the pictorial metaphor for the site where interior and exterior, the world within and the world outside collide, are put in relation to one another yet are also divided from one another. J.E. is firmly convinced of the artist's need to be concerned with this interface.

The question of whether these at times spontaneously painted works are representational or abstract cannot be answered conclusively. An ambiguity that is inherent to the oeuvre of J.E. The connection to the visible world always has some form of presence in his works. Color is likewise always bound to materiality and in the constructions, the small-scale pictorial architectures, the material color covers the inserted elements and integrates the parts into the whole. The brushwork underscores narrative references, brings out painterly features.

The poetics of the surface are what drive the artist. Paradoxically, depth is expressed in the surface, the surfaces. The working process naturally represents temporality and spatiality. Yet the many layers of the surfaces, the care and concern with which dyestuffs and pigments are used, are not self-sufficient or self-congratulatory. The crude everyday nature of the material that many of the pictorial works are made from encumbers these objects with a confounding reference to a normalcy in which things are subordinated to their use. What will thus be expected of color, of its transcendental capabilities? The ubiquity of color in the world we live in, the diversity of its functions, entanglements and meanings constitutes the set of themes for this artistic work and achievement. With an open network of possibilities, Joseph Egan has sought for decades to satisfy a major ambition. The works are an attestation and fulfillment of this daily work.


James Bishop , Paintings on Paper 1959 - 2007
Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop Germany, Dec. 16, 2007 – Feb. 17, 2008