Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Challenge of the Still Life

“To know what to paint and what to exclude is the challenge.
Guy Diehl

As a grade school student the dyslexic realist painter Guy Diehl was impressed by the paintings of saints at his local church which although unrealized at the time was to lead him into a life where his difficulties with the written word would be surpassed by his drawing abilities.

As he told the Huffington Post’s John Seed “Throughout grade school, my parents would say, Yeah, you can draw things, but how are you going to make a living? You can't read. When I would draw something realistically, I would hear: Wow! How did you do that? That looks so real.”

The discovery of linear perspective cemented the young Diehl’s preoccupation with the visual.

About which he has said “At the age of eight I stumbled upon the magic of linear perspective and with this new perception suddenly a whole new world was unlocked. From that point on, there wasn't anything else I was interested in.

It was during Diehl’s final year at high school that he discovered the power of his chosen form of expression. A poster of a caterpillar smoking a hookah based on Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland character was displayed on the school campus and became the center of furor with some parents demanding its removal.

“A discourse on freedom of expression ensued which made the front page of the local paper. That incident was my first strong realization that art had power, and that art could be a catalyst for emotional debate,” Diehl recalled.

After graduating from the San Francisco State University Diehl painted beach and swimming pool scenes; the hallmarks of his California lifestyle.

About which he has said “I would set up the compositions using towels, drinks, chairs and lounges. At first, my paintings centered on the figure at ease around the pool. After a period of time, I started painting everything but the human figure. It was as if the people had stepped away, and the viewer was left with the paraphernalia of the sunbather. I did not realize it at the time, but this was to be a period of transition which would lead me to the genre I am now most connected to: the Still Life.

Using photography to capture his arrangements in various lighting conditions as his source image Diehl has incorporated books and other artist’s images into his acrylic still life paintings to create a conceptual narrative.

As he says “By the choice of books and their titles I encourage the viewer's further reflection on the work, which provides the subtext to the initial first visual impression. By selecting and arranging objects, I can then introduce a narrative into my paintings… Today the challenge is not whether I can paint something realistic. It's what to paint... and how to compose a group of objects in controlled light and shadow that will reveal some sense of order without being overly contrived or familiar.

Diehl’s current exhibition A Dialogue with Tradition II is on show at San Francisco‘s Dolby Chadwick Gallery until the 5th of December.

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