John Finneran’s paintings have always been personal and abstract, whether or not they also had figures in them. In previous bodies of work, shapes and forms had meanings: the circle was the sun or the moon, the triangle was female anatomy or a pyramid or a mountain, the eyes became a bellybutton, the rectangle an urban structure. The mood was in the colours. Finneran drew a distinction between the personal and the biographical, pivoting his interest towards the emotions and feelings in the paintings, rather than the personal experience behind them. But in current times, he says it feels right to identify ones position.
For the Brussels show, Finneran has gathered new paintings that contemplate the time he has spent traveling in the Southwest since his relocation from New York to LA four years ago. Where there was the Lower East Side, the ocean in South Jersey and the walk over the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan, now there is New Mexico, Tucson, Big Bend National Park, the Rio Grande in Texas, the drive back to LA along the border – these are Finneran’s new subjects. Landscapes become places, where personal thoughts swirl and dance at the back of the mind and are subsequently transferred to canvas. The abstraction is more “abstract”. The mood, still, is in the colours. The Green is new for Finneran, but is never about landscape: instead the new colour joins the Blacks and Pinks, with their Purple tones, to express feelings. It is not a total rupture from before, but certainly a new beginning.
The London show finds Finneran searching for his own presence in the paintings, looking for the parts of himself that are hidden. Finneran has long been suspicious of biography, the narrowing focus of the personal, in painting. But here the question turns around: he asks himself how biography is ever separated from painting? What lurks in the idea that an artist can control their own presence in their work? What are you leaving un-confronted, what do you hide from yourself if you try? Here there is a figure, holding up a blanket or shadow in a protective gesture. There are black walls of cracked bricks. The gallery windows are darkened, the overall view is obstructed. The viewer gets to discover the paintings only from different perspectives, like a kind of a journey between layers. A ghostly Silver appears instead of the Green. A black painting is a mirror with no reflection in it. Undulating sinister tracks are an Edvard Munch painting seen in a book laying on a table, from the artist’s memory. Perhaps, the subject is just the self, the hidden self and the acknowledged self, the figure behind the blanket. It is private here.