Unedited conversations between artist in a productive critique discovering thesis and processes behind the work.
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Conversation between Galen Bradley and Olivia Ramos.
Oil on Canvas, 2014
60 x 72"
RAMOS: a lot of narrative to this piece
BRADLEY: yeah I definitely like to have at least a vague narrative
a major city, what looks like a marginal city adjacent to it, and then these bodies
all within a huge landscape that seems to be otherwise uninhabited
what is the vague narrative?
the narrative boils down to two major questions: for such a dense city, why is it so desolate, and what are these bodies doing outside of the city?
I wanted to create a sense of space that segregated civilization
and placed our point of view from the outskirts
looking in, and beyond
I wanted the perspective to be a little altered from each segment
so that you get a sense of vertigo
the lack of highways connecting to other cities is what makes it segregated?
segregated in terms of space
we have the dense area, separated by a ridge and series of hills and mountains
right like Bogotá
yes or Rio
except without macro infrastructure connecting to other cities
I have been debating with myself how large i want this city
my first idea was to have it recede almost infinitely
in the distance we would see the densest area
i liked having this city feel more isolated
it becomes incestual
why would there be a solitary city?
why is it disconnected? are there any other cities at all?
is the disconnection important?
it is not explicit since the city continues to the right of the canvas
implying that there is more to this city or world?
right... if it was about disconnection, the city would be small within a huge aerial
small in terms of space on the canvas, not in terms of density or scale of the actual city
true. that is why i was leaning towards emphasizing the desert behind the city. I wanted to view this in terms of separate horizontal planes
perhaps the city bleeding past the edges of the canvas undermines the concept
but i did want it to seem immense
it does seem immense, but for all I know, it is a small part of an even larger city that covers the world
what about the bodies?
for me the city is bordered by a desert on one side, and the bodies on the other
are the bodies a landscape of their own?
the bodies are weird because they aren't in the city
the pov is that of someone entering the city
or someone leaving and looking back
POV point of view
ohh ahha... wouldn't have guessed
someone or some group intentionally put these bodies there
which one is it? are they coming or going?
if they were going, then it would reinforce the isolation narrative
because it does not imply the existence of another city
if they are coming, then the next city can't be so far away
the way i had rationalized it was more like an alien perspective
arriving at this place, first we see the bodies, then we wonder if there is anyone else left in the city at all
it looks more like the perspective of another body
looking back at the city it left behind
that is another idea i had as well, because then you are among the bodies
so the origin is a dream i had many years ago of these giant forklifts dumping bodies along the side of US1
I'm going to disregard that
because i see this alien perspective as a common thread in your work
such as Docking Bay
Acrylic on Canvas, 2010
36 x 24"
yes. there's kind of a question as to why you're there at all
and why isn't anyone else
there's a story of something that happened
like we are archaeologists
the mystery of the disappearance of humanity
there are clues
but i wanted it to be less clinical
but more of an all encompassing loss
clinical, as in a scientific observer
i don't want it to be neutral
there is a tone I am trying to achieve that is straddling the line between an observer and the absurd horror of the reality
there is a feeling that i get sometimes that rides that line, and it is tricky to talk about
you are painting horror scenes
there is nobody there, no clue of bodies this time
a potted plant has fallen over
but there is no wind
and no footsteps
so whoever knocked it, ran the other way
and I think ran, because if they weren't in a rush, why not pick up the mess?
there is an absurdity to the potted plant
to me it somewhat humorous
this is that tricky emotional line again
perhaps someone was holding the plant, the explosion happened and they dropped it
im trying to recall some of my impulses for the painting
and it all happened so fast, the person who dropped the plant forgot to put their trousers on before evacuating
Acrylic on Canvas, 2010
30 x 48"
people do things, like keep plants,
or feel the need for pants
but there so many more powerful forces
we bring plants with us into space
plants are interesting because they are living, but are so neutral. we harvest them for their beauty to place in a vase
to give as a gift
but it's not the plant's normal environment
they are already out of place in a certain way
there is a tenderness in keeping a plant
and growing attached to it
I noticed another plant in this piece
Untitled (Monster with Plant)
Acrylic and Charcoal on Canvas, 2010
36 x 24"
the figure in this piece looks tender only because it seems to be absorbed by the plant
yeah it is a hideous creature, but it is attracted to this little symbol of beauty
it's rather sad to me
futility is an interesting concept to me
it is sad, there is a trace of humanity in it's meditation towards the flower... there is also humanity in it's breast
futility as in vanity?
they are related
was this woman once as beautiful as this flower?
we think our actions have a certain degree of importance
no it was born an abomination
a pile of useless flesh
but yet it still lives
are those breast real?
or is it an attempt at beauty?
the breasts are a useless appendage
like the appendix
it has the appearance of a function
or of beauty
you have this pile of flesh
none of it is functional
when we see a human body
we attach certain significance to it
especially a dead body
our flesh becomes something different in death
this pile of flesh is not dead
it hasn't decayed
it is clearly sustaining itself with what seems like limbs
it is also reaching for the flower
you're talking about the monster with the plant
sorry i went back to the city one
yes the she-monster
well, the bodies in the first painting are not dead either
no they aren't
they may be suffering
they are in a minimal state
not quite dead, not quite alive
in a stasis of suffering
like the she-monster
what are you trying to say? about humanity
how many monsters don't we encounter with perfectly crafted breast?
i guess i'm trying to say we are all sacks of flesh, desperately trying to connect, have a purpose, but more than anything humanity just suffers
but this isn't exactly a tragedy
it is the way it is
humanity does suffer
isn't suffering optional?
pain is inevitable
but suffering is optional
it's how we deal with the pain that causes suffering
for example, hunger
yes you can theoretically be starving and still find solace
one may suffer from hunger, or one may fast and therefore spiritually awakened by the absence of food
right, pain itself isn't always contextually bad
there is information in pain
such as, I have not eaten in three days
suffering is something entirely different
suffering is the narratives we create around pain
these narratives are endless
yes and they usually involve the relinquishing of power
such as, someone else caused the pain
the bodies in my city painting
were placed there
they are collectively suffering
and despite their proximity, there is no love
there is no understanding
they each are in their own private hell
how is that not a reflection of the world as it functions today?