Brian Fahlstrom makes paintings that engage with ideas of the contemporary via a full immersion in the more-distant history of painting. The works represent a deliberate removal of the artist from media fixations, and a commitment to self-generation and tradition stretching back to the 14th Century. As painting has necessarily become a self-conscious crowd-sourced reaction to image-bombardment, Fahlstrom has dedicated himself to channeling more distant influences (El Greco, Rubens, Poussin, etc) and privileging the solitary act of painting. Working without preparatory drawings or from existing images, Fahlstrom conjures these analogue compositions in the moment, moving freely between pure abstraction, landscape, depictions of figures, architecture and their hybrids. Between these emergent “subjects” the space—air itself—becomes manifest and depicted as a vibrating mass of color and line. This push and pull enables surprisingly active compositions that burst forth from the picture plane.
Oil painting has changed very little across the centuries, and Fahlstrom seems to intuitively acknowledge this simple technological fact as a connective tissue with the past. In light of this, the works possess a distant aura, with their vaguely biblical feel, and a calligraphic hand in the drawing. But the radiant, saturated palette and the disorienting manipulation of depicted space and pure surface all signal a more recent vintage. In this sense, these paintings operate outside of time, and emerge from an artist situating himself as a medium for some particularly unexpected corners of a long tradition.