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Jason Godeke: Artist’s Statement

In my paintings, I explore theatrical narratives. I find themes in personal experience, myths, and historical events. I am interested in creating a tension between a traditional, attractive form, and specific, sometimes disturbing subject matter. The challenge for me is to bring contemporary relevance to a timeworn mode of representation.

In general, I paint tableaux of figurines, which I arrange with fruit, flowers, boxes, or other still-life material, including toys. The manner in which I represent the human figure ranges from naturalistic likeness to generic symbol. I am experimenting with where and how identification happens. What level of specificity or generalization moves us the most? To what extent is our reception of a painting emotional, and how much of it is intellectual? Can realism and symbolism comfortably coexist?

I have long been intrigued by toy figures, which lie somewhere between person and thing. A plastic figure wears its stereotype on its sleeve; there is no pretense of it having the particularity of a real person. A figurine is a myth or an archetype. At its best, a toy figure allows us to project our own psyche onto its blank expression. It’s also mass-produced and impersonal. In making a painting of a plastic statuette, I aim to give that machine-made copy a hand-made uniqueness.

I’ve been influenced by the works of dead artists like Titian, Breugel, Chardin, Balthus, Picasso, and Morandi, and contemporary artists like Lucian Freud, Eric Fischl, and Jenny Saville. I’m happy to be participating in the long tradition of drawing and painting, and I’m optimistic about its future. In a culture filled with mechanically produced and reproduced images, people will continue to be attracted to hand-made, physical, subjective pictures.