Summer Quintet #17 2017

David Ellis
New Installations: 40th Year, October 6, 2017 – July 29, 2018
Roscoe Off Broadway scenic paint on canvas

I work within a range of mediums often combining time-based methods with more traditional modes of image and object making Twenty years ago I...

Artist Statement

I work within a range of mediums, often combining time-based methods with more traditional modes of image and object making. Twenty years ago, I began a series of these works I call Motion Paintings. In them, I examine the process of paintings that change, layer-by-layer, day-by-day over an extended period of time. Most of these projects are painted on a large floor and documented with a digital camera mounted to the ceiling above, programmed to take a high-resolution image every few seconds. In this mode, I’m struck with a boundless energy and an expanded range of technique, style and subject matter, the final result being a film of changing imagery with nothing remaining of the physical paintings. This latest work removes the film-making element and focuses on the layered paintings themselves, letting them resolve after a period of time, preserved to be viewed as an installation of large layered works.
I begin by recording hundreds of simple preliminary drawings and notations on stacks of paper, a swirling of ideas that serves as my point of departure. These “studies” run the gamut from doodles to detailed renderings and are made while sitting alone and in the company of others, often while listening to recordings, news commentary, music and podcasts. After this synthesis, I initiate the canvases with painted bands of color, spills, detailed lines, shapes and washes. Some refer back to the preliminary drawings; others are born in the moment. I use a flat, water-based, highly pigmented paint formulated for the theater industry as it does not glare and reflects light evenly, much like a gouache. What the works become over time are not premeditated but the result of a process that is in constant reaction to the day before, sometimes changing directions and obliterating hundreds of hours of work completely, at other times allowing bits to peek through. Knowing when they are finished is simply a gut reaction.
While in the process of traveling and developing other projects, the work here was made during a 4-month residency on the east coast of Florida, an area still recovering from the effects of last year’s massive Hurricane Matthew and this year’s Irma. Although not deliberately aware of doing so, it now seems clear to me that I was having an emotional response to that landscape in all of the work. The large feathered figures embody the spirit of calm before, during and after a storm, while the abstractions evoke terraforming events like large storms. In this case, the ideas extend beyond weather patterns and into the undercurrents of what seems to be rapidly churning into the most polarized and politically divided time I’ve seen in my life.

About the Artist

David Ellis received his BFA from Cooper Union. David Ellis’ work interprets music and sound. His paintings are often recorded in a form of digital time-lapse animation Ellis calls motion painting. Like jazz, these works provide Ellis with an opportunity to combine ideas with collaborators or work solo within a form that promotes improvisation and spontaneity. For a recent commission the artist painted a truck from sunup to sundown over five consecutive days. Ellis often stages events when exhibiting his motion paintings, inviting musicians, performers, and sound artists to interpret the work live. His motion painting, Paint on Trucks in a World in Need of Love was recently exhibited at MoMA. Ellis’ paintings are frequently improvised. He works directly on the walls of spaces that remain open to the public during installation and shares the making of the work with viewers. The experience is much like a band playing in front of a passing audience. Ellis further explores sound with kinetic installations that produce analogue sequences in rhythm