Elliot Wall, Earth vs Space, 2019

Wall is one of us narrative painters here in Portland, OR and has a show up at Chaos Gallery now till August 23rd, which includes this painting. Wall states that the painting is “about Authenticity (Earth) vs. Integrity (Space), where Authenticity is what we’d call ‘being yourself,’ and Integrity being ‘our obligations to others’… The griffin was said in ancient Roman mythology to be the airborne beast that descends into the depths of the earth to dig gold out of mines. The profoundly feminine golden lower figure with dirty feet represents abundance, and the erotic impulse as chthonic fixture in art and life as foundational (pro)creative drive, all too of the Earth. The whitewashed Olympian Hera in a black void, covering her heart and bathed in starlight, speaks to the higher world of ideas, abstraction, and obligations to others (which is to say, illocutionary acts and the social contract). ‘Integrity’ naturally is a conceit to the idea of structure, so the griffin’s attempts here to find value in the Underworld actively and imminently undermine Integrity.”

Wall explains that the painting is a metaphor for the role of artists today; we wish to create what we want (from our earthly, authentic drives) yet we are often torn by market demands and what will match the collector’s sofa (integrity and the upholding of social contract). He recounts an anecdote where a collector was pondering the purchase of one of Wall’s paintings and said “It’s not about the money… it’s that I don’t have the courage to buy this painting.” Wall says “This was for me the moment of realization that art is a virtue test, a value test, and that all the things we admit into our lives and the things we do are all kinds of actions, and they begin in time to form a sort of self-portrait.”

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