Interview on "Articulate with Jim Cotter"


A Considered Space

Jeff Carpenter’s creative process appears to be grounded in reason and theory. His oil and mastic paintings are carefully crafted studio pieces of interior and exterior scenes. He has thought about these paintings and thought about them hard. All of these pieces evoke summer days at the shore. They could be anywhere, though the light suggests the East Coast. But there is no real clue as to place, or even time for that matter. Or is there? Imbedded in the surface of the paintings are traces of maps of a shoreline. It is this imposition of mapping and all that it implies that makes these paintings seem a little more interesting than they probably are. Maps imply topography (surface), direction (or lack of it), and knowledge. They say this is where I am now, where I was before, and where I might go or want to go. Maps also tell me how to get to some place or even away from some place. I could go on but you get my point. Carpenter also thoughtfully juxtaposes images throughout his paintings. They may take the form of a diptych as in “Storybook 1”, where a ghost-like figure leads us out one side of the painting while the plummeting diagonal perspective of sky and phone lines lead us out the other side.

Nautical charts are also imbedded in “Blue Study for JFK.” It’s an interior scene, and oddly appearing at its heart is a small still of Jackie reaching for the just slain JFK. But the light isn’t the cold light of late November but the soft glow of a summer evening. Are these memories, or ghosts of too much TV? Carpenter isn’t telling, though the way he handles his layers of different images is reminiscent of film and video. In the end, the work remains spatial and non-temporal, which is, of course, what painting is. Not much is there that wasn’t there from the start, and it’s the grand, sweeping Escher-like gesture of summer porch, sky and sea in “Almost Independence Day,” enfolding both interior and exterior (the mind) that tends to hold us. This is work that has been thought about and we don’t really mind spending some time thinking and looking along with it.

— Dan Powell


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