“I want my art to go with your brain, not with your couch.”
In the opening talk for his 2005 exhibition Crimes Against Art the painter John Slaby stated “In my art I have tried to combine the beauty of the decorative movement with the mental stimulation of the modernist movement without the pitfalls of each. I want my art to have beauty and to stimulate the mind. I want to avoid the trite forms of decorative art and the adolescent anger of modernist art. I want my art to be active in that it provokes thought rather than passive… I want my art to be infused with meaning and intention - to provoke thoughts and feelings by sharing my thoughts and feelings on a variety of topics from our shared human experience. This creates a connection between the viewer and myself. A connection based on our shared human experience. And it is this connection that provides the spirituality in art. I crave this spirituality and it is the reason I paint. I often wonder if I would paint if no one were to see the art. Perhaps not. I wonder if this is a good thing because so much of my happiness depends on the response of my audience. One of the hardest challenges for me is to remove myself from these expectations.”
With a PhD in engineering Slaby paints in his spare time and produces a variety of conceptually inspired realist narrative works in the landscape, figurative and still life genres.
About which he says “In a way I am very lucky because I have a good day job which I kind of like and only have to do part time. I think the composer Charles Ives is my prototype. He was successful in the insurance business and composed music in his free time. Knowing he didn’t have to make money from his music liberated him to compose as he wished – and he did some mighty strange things, some very groundbreaking things.”
A lapsed Catholic, Slaby has replaced his religion with his painting.
As he said at the opening of his 2008 exhibition Somethings to Think About “If anyone asks me if I go to church, I reply with the wonderful double entendre “I never miss church on Sunday”. I usually spend my Sunday’s painting. Painting is my spiritual experience. This comes from two aspects. The first is the creation of something from nothing. The blank canvas taking on form. Beauty ex nihilo. That’s what I get on my Sunday’s. The second is the showing, the connection with others. That’s what I am getting tonight and I hope that you can share in that. This is my spirituality. This place is my church.”
With subject matter that ranges across sex, violence, religion and death combined with the realization of his own mortality, Slaby’s latest works have shifted from the intellectual towards the emotional and to ensure that their points are not missed each comes with a wall plaque.
As he has said “Tonight I have all these paintings here and everyone has a description on it.”
Slaby’s current exhibition Death and Desire is on show at Houston’s Archway Gallery until the 7th of January.