A LANGUAGE OF PERFUME AND DECEIT
The British American artist duo currently make abstract paintings exclusively from written language - a unique idea. The artists both came from outstanding careers in making highly realistic figurative paintings, but they shared the goal of creating works which were simple, purely visual, and viscerally thrilling on walls.
Like Pablo Picasso, the duo value children's art for its unselfconsciousness and vitality. In line with that, they scorned overtly clever or impressive artforms in favor of guileless planes of texture. They carefully selected passages from emotionally intoxicating books about passion and strategy, layering the words to mask their immediate meaning, spawning an innocent species of shapes and gestures. None-the-less, the perfume and atmosphere of the original literature remains perceptible: Sun Tzu's 2500 year-old Art of War; Rumi's 13th Century poetry; and Second World War love letters.
They paint in a kind of staged performance, simultaneously transcribing the taped writings with their non-dominant hands. They paint the text more slowly than it is heard and when their hands are poised to write the next word, they agree to paint the word that is audible at that moment, thereby erasing all conscious intention and randomizing the text. Their method is so demanding to the brain that after an hour of work they are incapable of driving!
They manage between six and eight hours daily in the studio, seven days a week, because they know they must maintain a creative momentum, a thrust vital to carrying the source ideas’ original energy faithfully through to the finished paintings. As Povey and Schultz tire, their works appear to stockpile virility.
They experimented in meticulously overlaying lines of text by thirds and halves, and by overlapping the bodies of letters leaving their ascenders and descenders to generate vertically forested strips – all in the cause of manufacturing artless planes of derived pattern. Certainly this concept appears in Islamic and Celtic cultures, in which the meanings of the words remain central, but the similarity to Povey and Schultz’s approach ends there.
The paintings appear to shimmer and vibrate, rotate, gain depth and to glow uncannily. The artists use standard pigment-saturated oil paints and pure acrylic pigment pens to create all their effects, generating fluorescent phenomena whilst challenging themselves to strictly avoid the use of fluorescent paints.
They use awkward mediums like gilding, easily blunted pencils, temperamental oil pastels or crayons, and Gypsum plaster-laden oil paint, all of which they deem indispensable to the effects they are intending. In some of the paintings, they spend as much as a week laying down discordant colors which flicker against each other giving the illusion of space. This method was noted by Goethe, known for duping the brain into believing that the colors are spaced apart. Povey and Schultz use it to create visual stimulation.
For all their optical lies, their paintings are optical experiences filled with the perfume of passionate literature, and they do work on us.
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Povey and Schultz interview on WWOZ, New Orleans
Jazz from the French Market with Maryse Dejean
Povey and Schultz are featured guests, discussing art, life, the creative process as an artistic duo, and armchair philosophy.