Middle Distance; The Paintings of David Eddington
By Eve Wood
For artist David Eddington the making of art is an essentially private matter. This is not to say that Eddington's work does not seek commerce with the world outside his studio. It most definitely does, however, the creative process seems for Eddington a means by which the artist might begin to explain himself to himself, and this all too human experience is first and foremost justified by the existence of the work he makes rather than dictated by outside influences. Eddington may very well be the last of the "Old Masters," and by this I mean to say that the work he creates derives from the experience of being alive, and is a synthesis, a transformation of all that he has seen and lived through, rather than a regurgitation of the latest art world trends. One has the sense that Eddington must paint in order to stay alive.
Many artists working today paint for the marketplace, and it takes tremendous personal courage to stand full frontal in the face of commerce, opting instead to make paintings that spring from an essential faith in the human condition. Eddington's paintings break open with certainty, a kind of credulity that announces itself slowly and with tremendous conviction. These paintings are at times alternately humorous and sad as well as stately and mysterious. In the painting "Secretary Bird" (27" x 22" metallic acrylic on panel) for example, a seemingly lost and unwieldy bird is strangely positioned among luminous folds of fabric fading into the distance, as though God were slowly pushing up his shirtsleeves. The painting is further punctuated by several red marks in the lower left hand corner, which read as violent intrusions into an already complicated landscape. The bird appears to be hovering, more air-craft carrier than avian, caught in mid-flight, its direction unclear, yet despite the bird's forlorn appearance, it is oddly graceful, and exists perhaps as a symbol for our times. Big, clunky birds many times fall from the sky, but perfecting their flying apparatus is only the beginning. It's their faith ultimately that keeps them there.
Other paintings are more clearly delineated yet still retain a heightened sense of mystery. The objects in the painting "Table" (68" x 72" metallic acrylic & casin on linen) manifest a near human prescience, and while they remain stationary, Eddington imbues each with its own inner life, as colors ricochet on and off all around them. They pulse with familiarity, yet seem held within an impenetrable distance. The wine decanter sings its own song of disavowal and quiet debauchery, implying a narrative, yet giving nothing away. Not unlike a Francis Bacon painting where entire areas on the canvas are twisted, flung, or simply wiped clean into a deeper and more complicated spiral of imagination, Eddington utilizes the effects of color and erasure to achieve a widening of perspective, implying also a ghostly reverence for the objects themselves.
Eddington's paintings from the L.A. bridge sequence stand elegant and dignified, clearly made of stone, yet supple and implying inner movement as though each were whispering its own private soliloquy on the wind. Works like "Ivory Tower" (45" x 50" metallic acrylic on cottonduck July '07) communicate a sly stoicism. Ironically, the ivory tower in this painting is obfuscated by a larger, more commanding green tower that appears, like Pisa, to be slipping, threatening the sanctity of its smaller counterpart. What is an ivory tower anyway but a dubious means of escape?
Earlier works suggest the same fascination with the imperceptible. "Primary Matter" (Casein and acrylic on canvas, 2002/2006) is at once immovable yet fluid, dynamic yet static, empty yet full, suggesting a strange middle distance between what we expect to find within the folds of draped fabric and what we imagine could happen if those same folds were let down once and for all. Once again a Baconesque figuration is implied here, but the work is also reminiscent of Magritte's great painting "The Lovers" where two figures stand kissing, their heads covered with white fabric. Fabric by its very nature is seductive and ever yielding, and Eddington's painting is vaguely sinister in that the figure has been extruded from the form of the fabric, leaving in its place a labyrinthine human impression.
In all of Eddington's work the artist's hand is present, sometimes pressing firmly, other times guiding with a looser more playful whimsy, yet in each case and with every stroke, Eddington assures us that his faith in the world is unflagging, and that our job as viewers is to go there with him, and maybe even stay awhile.