Ceci n'est pas Ed

This painting, one in a series titled ‘Abrasive Affirmations’ by Dennis Mukai, is showing at the Robert Berman Gallery in Bergamot Station.

About this series of works, Mukai said

The method of creating my paintings is subtractive. A paint brush is never used. The surface layer of dark paint is removed with sandpaper to reveal varying degrees of the white gesso surface underneath as opposed to the more traditional method of applying paint to a gessoed surface.

Mukai used tenebrism to make this thing happen. All the fine texturing on the skin, the lifelike aspect of each strand of hair, made possible by the heightened contrast of light and shadow. The eyes are given such a pleasant intensity. Eyes hardly ever look that detailed even when you’re gazing right at them, unless you’re way up close to the face (having an intimate moment? With Ed?). Which is what makes Ed’s gaze look so dreamy and piercing.

Mukai continued:

The technique is slow and precise. The process of minutely abrading and distressing the two-dimensional surface to ‘sculpt’ the images becomes an obsessive meditation. In this new series my paintings are an exploration of double entendres. The juxtaposition and ambiguity of my word play is intended to bring relief to the dark, evocative visuals.

The painting’s caption, the ‘abrasive affirmation,’ alludes to Rene Magritte and reminds us not to be fooled. Ed doesn’t feel the same way for us that we feel about him, because he can’t really see us, because he’s not really there.

This is not Ed. This is an image. And even if he was here and he could see, who’s to say he’d feel the same way? Would he take one sharp look and move on to another work of art or another human being, or would he gaze thoughtfully at us in all our beautiful contrasts and accept our own complicated texturing, both aethetic and emotional? I don’t know, and the painting is not very good about responding to my texts. I’ll just have to live with the uncertainty.

[Robert Berman Gallery]