Sunday, October 1, 2017

Jeremy Geddes - Micheal Head

Jeremy Geddes was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1974 and graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2003. He paints primarily photorealistic paintings, depicting surreal scenes of individualscosmonauts, spaceships, doves, peoplesuspended in a black limbo, or of ruptures of urban settings, often accompanied by doves.

Ascent, 2013. Oil on Board.
Geddes is slow to create, often spending several months to complete a single painting and only finishing 2 to 3 paintings a year. His process is laborious, dedicating himself to each painting, first creating many studies of composition and color, and finally painting onto board layers of grisaille, opaque color, and glaze, all to create a photorealistic subtlety, as in Ascent. In Ascent, an astronaut appears to struggle against an overgrowth of flora in his helmet—this painting is thematically similar to many of his other works, depicting lone individuals in darkness and pitch-black isolation, often in misery, grief, or frustration. Ascent also contains a common motif of Geddes—astronauts, or, as he might call them, cosmonauts.

Misérere 5, 2012. Oil on Board.
Misérere 5, named after the French word for misery (misère), presents a similar common motif in Geddes’ work—spacecraft. In Ascent and Misérere 5 Geddes shows one of his prevailing themes—loneliness, and hopelessness. Both images—cosmonaut and spacecraft—are often seen as symbols of exploration and bravery into the deep unknown. But while these images and the dark expanses they exist in tend to be associated with feelings of wonder and awe, Geddes uses these explorers to evoke a kind of existential terror and hopelessness.

Misérere 42012. Oil on Board.

Begin Again, 2011. Oil on Board.
Another one of Geddes’ common motifs is doves. Unlike in his cosmonaut- and spacecraft-themed works, Geddes uses doves as symbols of distress and failure (as with the dove of Misérere 4 and its contorted body and splayed wings) and as harbingers of mayhem and disarray (as with the destructive rupture of Begin Again). In the same vein as Ascent and Misérere 5, Doves typically symbolize purity and grace, yet Geddes’ doves are anything but.
Geddes uses all of his symbols to convey a sense of dissonance and disorder, especially in their contrast with their typical interpretations. He turns these symbols on their heads, keeping them from their backgrounds of hope and power and trapping them in all-enveloping voids, empty.
That is why I chose Geddes, I think. When I saw his works for the first time, I was speechless just looking at the image on the page. While I enjoy images evoking wonder and awe as much as anyone else, I found myself especially moved by Geddes’ uses of color and light (or lack thereof) to create a really compelling sense of damning dread and uncanny stillness. Not to mention, the amount of detail he puts into his work is just to die for. The minute, precarious shreds of glass and concrete in Begin Again are completely worth my admiration.
I also felt drawn to Geddes’ art because it seems out of reach of my own abilities, in a way. Not only do I not have anywhere close to the patience he commands, but I also intensely aspire to the intensity of emotion he can create even without a narrative or, often, without a background.
(Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any drawings by him—Geddes doesn’t create finished drawings and isn’t really the type to release preliminary drawings)


“Jeremy Geddes in Conversation with Ashley Wood.” Juxtapoz, Feb. 2012.

Tudor, Silke. “A Perfect Vacuum: The Paintings of Jeremy Geddes.” Hi-Fructose,  June 2017.

Works Cited

Geddes, Jeremy. Ascent, 2013.

Geddes, Jeremy. Begin Again, 2011.

Geddes, Jeremy. Misérere 4, 2012.

Geddes, Jeremy. Misérere 5, 2012.

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