Leave Your Preconceived Notions at the Door

Before he ever picks up a brush, London-based American artist Joseph Yaeger has been working on a painting for months. He starts by choosing a reference from sourced images, often still shots from films, or his own photography. Then he prepares his surface, layering gesso on canvas, sometimes adding scrapes or pockmarks with water or the end of a paintbrush. 

Old long since (2022) by Joseph Yaeger

“The prep takes quite a bit longer than the painting,” Yaeger said in an interview with Artnet. “I don’t sit and deliberate on a canvas for very long.” Once he gets going, most of his paintings are nearly finished in less than a week, sometimes as little as a day.

Painted with layers of watercolor on the gessoed canvas, the work appears textured but with a glossy sheen that could be mistaken for oils. Nevertheless, Yaeger is “happily married” to watercolor, and “constantly discovering new ways to make it lie.”

“The way that watercolor is thought of, both culturally and in the history of painting, it seems like it’s a wide-open field,” he said. “And there’s so much more that can be done with it.”

Sanctimony as a pastime! (2022) by Joseph Yaeger

In recent series, the artist has focused on a number of intimate subjects — close-up views of hands, feet, and faces, particularly eyes. His most recent series, “Time Weft,” tackles the issue of seeing itself, with pieces that show faces half-obscured by glass or shadow, eyes covered by a hand, and one featuring a pair of glasses.

On display at the Perimeter in London through February 18, 2023, the exhibition gets its name from from the Einsteinian notion of a time warp — the distortion of space and time, as well as the notion of the weft (weave’s past tense), which, in textile production, continually doubles back on itself. In this manner the exhibition explores recurrence.

Inside a time are its lies (2022) by Joseph Yaeger

“The imagery I use is a protracted search to better understand myself; playing or putting on roles that might clarify an interior that is sort of naturally hidden, even from myself,” said Yaeger. “I’ll come across an image –– sometimes I’m searching for one, sometimes I stumble into it –– and the feeling of it, the arrangement, the subject, the relation of subjects within the image, will sort of jar me, attract me, dislodge me.”

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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