The artistic series, conceived for Drew Englander's inaugural solo exhibition in Italy, is a continuation of his odyssey into the exploration of perception, memory, and imagination distortions. The series originated from Englander's artist residency on the picturesque island of Capri. Though the scenery and painting medium have transitioned, with oil paint now being the preferred medium, the aura of surrealism remains intact. The distortions have subtly evolved, but their essential nature remains unchanged. Englander embarked on this artistic journey in his Brooklyn studio, conjuring the image of an idyllic island retreat of vast proportions. He thematically aligned his work with Hockney's renowned LA paintings, offering a creative outlet for his escapist yearnings and projections of an unblemished paradise. Initially, the surreal rock formations and the mesmerizing sea were the predominant focus of his paintings.
However, upon setting foot on Capri, Englander's series transformed, shifting the focus from natural to human elements.
The teeming tourist crowds, initially perceived as a distraction from the awe-inspiring natural beauty, eventually assumed an aspect of spontaneity, offering an unending source of comedy and complexity. The series shifted focus onto these human elements, with Englander envisaging the multitude of stories being enacted by the visiting tourists. The iconic beauty of the landscape, while still evident, was recast as the backdrop for these unfolding human dramas.
Englander found that these human dramas were not a distraction, but rather an intrinsic and vital aspect of the island's beauty. The narratives conceived were as significant, if not more so, as the locations they unfolded in, often remaining etched in memory long after the experiences themselves had faded.
As an artist-in-residence, Englander maintained a strict routine, observing the crowd from a distance rather than partaking in the various activities. His work thus developed a voyeuristic quality, with the artist assuming a slightly detached viewpoint. Englander also experienced an ongoing dichotomy between reality and the fantastical image of the island he had harbored in his mind. He began to perceive paradise as a construct, built on symbols, mental projections, and personal desires, bearing only a tenuous connection to the actual place's reality.
Born in 1985 in Ventura, CA, Drew Englander is a painter currently residing and working in Brooklyn, NY. His latest artistic endeavor showcases his distinctive style, characterized by bold colors, distorted perspectives, and sharp chiaroscuro contrasts. Englander's works encapsulate an intimate world of neat maximalism that is simultaneously skewed, personal, and familiar. His style is shaped by daily interactions with digital technology, sports and entertainment, virtual reality, and art history. His work expresses the paradoxical nature of solitude within a hyper-connected world, emphasizing the necessity to adapt to environmental and psychological shifts.
Englander's artistic process begins with creating small observational sketches on an iPad using his finger. His compositions are assembled like intricate jigsaw puzzles, and his employment of gestural marks lends a messy yet intentional fluidity to his images. This captures the changing nature of objects and spaces, which is why drawing is the bedrock of Englander's practice, serving as the genesis of every painting. The act of painting is, for Englander, a pursuit to confer a tangible physical presence on this perspective and harmonize the disparate elements.