On ViewSafe Gallery
October 14 – November 12, 2017
The largest painting in Andy Cahill’s new show spans over thirteen feet wide. In it, an androgynous creature points a finger-gun at a man crawling up an increasingly vertiginous path toward a house already out of reach, lost to the inevitability of one-point perspective. He is bare-bottomed, clad only in socks and a shirt—the victim of a wet-dream-turned-nightmare. One might ask who he is or what these two have done to each other, but Cahill doesn’t concern himself with answering such questions. His mark-making operates in a language of ambiguity—from afar, dense nets of color form recognizable shapes; up close, labyrinthine patterns take over, obliterating former narratives and figures. He focuses on the moment itself, striving to depict the dreamlike atmosphere of simultaneous despair and excitement, fear and intrigue.
To achieve this, Cahill uses two distinct techniques: the first consists of acrylic pushed through the back of linen canvases, seeping through drawn wax lines and pooling like blisters on ceramic glaze. But the majority of the paintings are made with the second method: urethane paint squeezed in discrete lines overlapping each other over and over, where wispy swirls build a world full of paradoxes. While the first method allows for unplanned, atmospheric passages and blurred movement, the second results in a controlled delirium perfect for dreamscapes.
Good Bad Bad Good Idea (2016) takes us on an adventure in electrical socket-poking, while Zero Sum Game (2016) features a hungry character slicing a loaf of bread. Cahill’s work borrows as much from comical signage and flipbooks as it does from the cave paintings at Chauvet or Giacomo Balla’s Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912). The overlaid frames of Good Bad Bad Good Idea communicate pain, excitement, eroticism, and enlightenment as simultaneous conditions. Though some works present these opposing states on top of one another in stark contrast, and others portray them as harmonious, all-over environments, all of Cahill’s paintings argue for the possibility of these dualities coexisting.
There is a remarkable balance in these paintings: for every noxious cigarette cloud there is a healthy tree, for every grimace a smile—even acid green finds its lush cousin viridian. The most enigmatic piece in the show, Nest Egg (2017) juxtaposes comfort and suspicion through anthropomorphic architecture—a wobbly house with lazy-boy chairs for eyes opens its mouth/garage: it is either swallowing or regurgitating another home, one that is smaller, straighter, more commonplace. Behind, the sky is drawn as hundreds of blue faces. From one side grows a humongous ear. Are the walls listening to us, or for us? Whether these are dreams or nightmares, hallucinations or realities, they are believable in their oversaturation. Unlike so many figurative painters of the past, Cahill argues against didacticism—everything does happen all at once, and sometimes emotions are impossible to parse. It is a world to be feared and envied.