Placed evenly at eye level along the walls of MONITOR Lisbon’s two rooms, Ian Tweedy’s dark, contained paintings appear as a series of small twilight pits with bursts of color. Closer, partial subjects – a human form, a piece of landscape, fabric, or tarp – become a little clearer. Some of the works in ‘Wait in Line’ are photographs to which oil paint has been applied, but they are mostly book covers to which Tweedy has added splashes of color using a traditional layering and layering technique. glaze. The artist apparently prefers printed images to digital images as source material, and has been collecting many different types for years, consciously using and drawing inspiration from their ragged edges and fragility.
Tweedy – an American artist born on a military base in Germany in 1982, educated in schools across Europe, studied at NABA in Italy and now living in New York – has used books as canvas since 2003. His work intertwines with both collective and individual imagery, thus references to climate change or the refugee crisis, for example, are treated alongside memories of his itinerant past. In My Landscape (2021), mostly black and white oil drawing on a book cover, the artist depicts himself squatting on the floor of his studio, sorting through his archives of prints and tools. The edges of the artwork reveal Tweedy’s various attempts to form images (we can see yellows and blues, and other markings), as he leaves traces of his multiple efforts instead of an additional frame to within the bounds of the original book cover. In blue tarp (2021), the torsos of two people whose heads are covered with fabric emerge from a patch of yellow paint. This work was inspired by an image of refugees standing in front of a tent and not wanting their faces recognized – and is one of many drapery studies on display. The others are To hide (2021), in which clothes have been stored in a makeshift shelter, and burnt blue bush (2021), in which a blue tarp hangs behind a bush whose painterly depth is the result of the artist applying countless layers of oil. Through a variety of additions, Tweedy’s stubborn branding constructs images in an experimental process, a process in which references to history, personal affairs, and current events settle into a complex, sedimentary whole.
As for colors, Tweedy says he recently overcame his fear of them overwhelming concept and imagery, and now understands them as the glue that binds all of his compositions together. There are hints that his works present interwoven accounts of things that happened to him or somewhere in the world beyond, but picking a thread is nearly impossible, as if Tweedy’s accounts were treated in the same fragmented value as colors and materials. But, as in music, certain elements repeat themselves here, including references to some of the places the artist visited on his travels.. A piece of the Berlin Wall appears in the background of german graffiti (2021); Milanese architecture is combined with a close-up of tree bark in Skeleton of angels (2021) (one of the rare works in this exhibition that combines pencil on paper and photography); and an oil flare burns in the distance against the hot Utah summer sky in ocher flame (2020).
Drawing its strength from its powerful layers of oils, Tweedy tries to mark surfaces over time. Each of her carefully crafted oil paintings seems to bring up disparate stories from the depths, destabilizing them in the process, and alluding to an overarching yet diffuse subconscious.
Ian Tweedy, ‘Stand in line’ is on view at MONITOR, Lisbon, until January 22, 2022
Main Image: Ian Tweedy, To run (detail), 2021, oil on book cover, 24 × 23 cm. Courtesy of the artist and MONITOR, Rome/Lisbon/Pereto; photography: Bruno Lopes. Thumb: Ian Tweedy, blue tarp (detail), 2021, oil on book cover, 25 × 21 cm. Courtesy of the artist and MONITOR, Rome/Lisbon/Pereto; photo: Bruno Lopes