John Grantner

My current paintings, which I call Found Images are figurative abstracts that can be placed under the rubric of Post Modernism. That is, they are a culmination and distillation of some historic precedents: Baroque composition, color and chiaroscuro, a distortion and redefinition of space and volume similar to (but less abstracted and softer edged than) Cubism, and what the Surrealists called “automatism” — or the exploitation of chance. As in Pop Art, both the iconography and media of popular culture are employed, however always so distorted that their origin is unrecognizable, and ultimately realized with traditional media and methods.

Like many other people, I noticed long ago that mistakes in photography often produce interesting results: the famous “happy accident”. I never felt moved to paint this kind of imagery before a couple of years ago. I had spent many years as a hyper-Realist painter (between spurts of working as a graphic designer). One day two or three years ago, I discovered that under a particular lighting which distorts natural color, certain mistakes have the richness of color and the otherworldly look of Baroque religious painting. So I began to repeat the “mistakes” intentionally and collected a library of images which became the studies for paintings.

The imagery is process-driven, and the accidental nature of the process is key to the aesthetic. I do not begin with a preconceived idea. The preliminary studies for the paintings are distorted photography (photography of photography or photography of video); randomly distorted in camera, when the image is captured, and afterwards digitally and/or manually by drawing on or damaging a laser print. The result is similar to a psychiatrist’s Rohrschach Test — an accidental “inkblot,” so to speak, which evokes an idea. I then paint the idea onto canvas. Each composition is a process of discovery, and, frankly, simply a fun ride.

I discovered imagery that pushes a variety of psychological buttons — often erotic and sometimes violent, it is loving, profane, pastoral, peaceful — often all at the same time. There is a kind of serene spiritual quality to all of these paintings (even, oddly, in cases where the imagery is unsettling). I found the Baroque look compelling — the rich warm palette, the dramatic chiaroscuro, the dynamism of the composition — and an interesting complement to the complex psychology.