Imaginative realism can take us to places far beyond our normal realms; we often get a taste of fantastical worlds filled with unusual creatures, magic, rich ancient history and futuristic cultures. What strikes me most about David Palumbo’s creations for his upcoming show, then, is the raw grounding in which each of his paintings seem to thrive. In RITUAL, exhibiting at IX Arts’ new online IX Gallery, we see a collection of paintings born more in the heart of ‘realism’ than its counterpart, yet still resonating a reality far-placed from our own. There are no explosions of mystical colours to draw the eye – not even a hint of the playful elements that many of us have become warmly familiar with when we think about this genre. Instead, we are invited into a culture that connects to the human spirit on much more intimate level.
In RITUAL, we are given the chance to explore the delicacies of human relationships, stripped, as bare as the depicted bodies, from the distractions of modern life.
August 15, 2017
August 15 (Live on the website at 8pm EST) – September 14, 2017
Creating this series was a very personal journey for David Palumbo. As patient as a gardener, he waited and watched as the seeds of idea planted in his mind. “The images in my Ritual series almost always begin as visual impressions and emotional impulses.” David explains. “I imagine the world, the landscape, and the figures, and I watch to see what they do until the right moment arrives. My conception of these images is rooted more in discovering the story than telling it… As the themes emerge and unfold, I often know they’re “right” before I know what they mean, and it’s while I’m actually painting them that I meditate on what deeper truths they are revealing.”
His reactive way of approaching art has been an integral part of his creative process. No painting is ever fully formed in his head prior to the final stroke. “I have to start making marks, gathering references, then find where it can go from there. Even my way of applying paint, I put down general tones and gradually close in on finished forms based on what it still needs.” This emotional approach has allowed David to connect further to his subconscious, learning from his own experiences and thoughts. Concepts are explored with fluidity: “I always start with thumbnails of compositions or poses. Not too much worry about the story, just free associating little scenes until something gives me an emotional jolt” he describes. “When I find that, I’ll start going in to it further, maybe explore some variations, until I’m ready to bring in models and shoot some reference images.”
With a library of photos to gather environment inspiration, David can end up spending hours playing with the shapes until the final design shows itself. “I think very carefully about lighting and costuming, whatever really fits the emotional tone I’m steering towards. In general, I like to really work the potential problems out as much as possible before I start painting, so that I can really focus at that point on tones, colors, and mark making. To me, the most difficult and important stuff happens in the planning stages and I get to have fun seeing it become something in the execution.”
When recently speaking to David about his latest series, it was clear that this personal journey had been a great influence. Had the formation of RITUAL helped him learn more about himself and the world around him?
“This series started at a time when I was actively thinking quite a bit about sexuality and close relationships, but none of the paintings were designed in a very literal way. I was more letting instinct guide decisions and seizing on ideas when they felt right or I was excited to see them develop. As the series expanded, the ones that worked were the ones that felt true to me. Some of them didn’t feel like anything, and they ended up in the trash. So looking at the successful ones as they emerge, I start seeing patterns and asking myself why this or why that? Why do certain things repeat? And most of it seems to come back to an attraction to these figures who are confident in their bodies and selves, and they are among a people who are their people… I get excited to see how it will all turn out. In the rare cases that I do have a very clear mental image from the start, those paintings are usually disappointing in the finish.”
A Dream of Belonging
The Ritual of Beginning
David’s use of cool, earthy blues and soft browns seem to further expand the open surroundings within his paintings, reflecting on the elements of freedom that his characters are experiencing. However, even with David’s own revelation of his most confident characters taking centre stage, there are still particularly dramatic paintings that elevate beyond the rest. The darkness surrounding the figures in Monarch creates this sense of isolation that I find hard to shift as a viewer – David mused on this interpretation:
“At a glance, I think they have a dark quality which is something I’ve always been drawn to, but the actual scenes playing out aren’t dark or threatening. There is tension, but I think that tension is like the risk in revealing yourself to someone. In these mostly communal settings, the moments shown are very intimate and private. Monarch is one of my favorites, and it’s been one that I have a very difficult time putting into words. But my clumsy way to verbalize it is these two figures are trying to find understanding, but there is nothing revealed in this picture except them. They appeal to the third figure for help but that figure is as obscured as the space surrounding them, except the tiniest peek under its shroud. So there is definitely isolation here, but they aren’t alone. They just don’t know how to understand each other. I still don’t know what the snow/ash means, but I know it feels right.
Another one I think is interesting is Coronation, in part because it’s the only piece so far with anything overtly unreal happening. The four arms are symbolic of the dual role in placing and receiving the crown. With both actions taken by the same individual, their authority is not given by another, but has been earned and recognized within.”
I had one last question for him as we finished our chat: Do you feel that in your creation of this new world, you’ve opened a door to a place that will be revisited in the future?
“I hope so.” David smiles, “I’ve explored a number of painting series over the years and it’s not always easy to tell, even a little ways on with one, how much mileage it has. But I think this one does have strong potential, in part because I wasn’t planning a series when I began, they just started happening. That’s usually a good sign that there is something at the root of it worth unraveling.
If there’s anything that I think I’ve clearly discovered while working on these, it’s about the importance of finding the people who are your people, that you can reveal yourself to. And taking that leap.”
David Palumbo’s RITUAL will be on show at IX Gallery, IX Art’s online gallery solely dedicated to imaginative realism, from August 15 – September 14, 2017. Visit the gallery for more details.
Figure in Black Drapery 2
The Circle of Flame