The Shape of Things to Come
Eric Sall’s latest series of paintings are utterly abstract, yet somehow in their dynamism feel entirely familiar—like some kind of visual translation of real life movement. Or really, like many translations brought together in a single work: a collage of disparate tempos and rhythms, made entirely in gesture.
They begin as tranquil, serpentine drawings.
Black pastels cruise around each raw canvas. Lines as thin as a pencil and as thick as a fist weave back and forth—at times coasting gracefully and other times building speed—until they’ve criss-crossed into an overlapping series of spirals and waves that make up the underlayer of the work. Yet even with Sall’s palimpsestic layering, there’s a certain restraint to these background marks: they’re circuitous and mellifluous, and just when they seem to gain momentum, they slalom back around to keep it in check. In this way the lines feel almost meditative—like a steady, flowing meander teeming with the potential for introspection.
But then comes the paint.
Skidding and scraping and grinding and turning on a dime, Sall’s marks in vibrant oil and acrylic seem to jut out from the canvas. Unlike the pastel background, nothing about these marks feels in control. Instead, they burst into our viewing space with a jagged punch of energy—a rush of adrenaline that we can feel but not totally comprehend. We get the sense that a whirlwind of some sort has occurred right before our eyes (and maybe all around us, too), but so quickly that now all that’s left are tracks on the canvas—these kind of scuff and skid marks in paint. There’s an unbridled irreverence to this brushwork: it’s loud and visceral and aggressive, and in this way, seems to rebel against the otherwise quiet, mindful work.
This is the juxtaposition we’re left to consider.
And what we discover is that despite being wildly dissimilar, the tranquil background of pastel and the thrashing foreground of paint actually achieve an incredible harmony; that, moreover, the two are hopelessly dependent on each other for balance; that this coexistence (of steady rhythms and sudden improvisations) is what gives motion (whether visual or auditory) artful potency. And then we realize that life itself really follows this same rhythmic principle; that how we move through time is a constant push and pull; that we do not live in fixed, regular tempos; that hours, minutes, and seconds have little effect on our perception of time passing; that a whole day can go by in what seems like an hour, and vice versa; which is all to say, Sall’s visual rhythms remind us what time really feels like—a cacophony of drifting, crushing, shifting, slapping, plodding, and blistering moments, often overlapping.