Rich, gleaming oil palettes radiating transfixing images of questioning, introspection, and universal connectivity stand as emblematic imaginings of painter and sculptor JR Slattum. Though much of his phantasmagorias are dark and searching, he also offers offers bright, airy, and even humorous reflections of his inner workings, showing both ends of the spectrum of the artist’s perspective. The pieces, though are not exceedingly detailed, they are oozing with sensation in light, movement, feathery blends, and piercing gazes, that prompt viewers to take a second look, a deeper look.
“There’s a lot of contrast in my work, both aesthetically and conceptually,” Slattum says. “A lot of bright light in dark scenes. It taps into the relationship between the two, as a unified one in balance. As I’ve continued this journey, I’ve realized it’s all basically visual philosophy…and it’s almost like the piece creates itself based on the experience that I’m going through in my own learning and during the creation of the work (the chicken and the egg, at the same time).”
Art to Slattum is a journey, a composite expedition into a deeper dimension of onself, and on the course back, the artist may bring back “gifts.” An imaginative playground, the creative realm also allows for spiritual and emotional growth and healing in self-analysis.
“Art is magic. It allows a viewers conscious mind to go somewhere else…Collectively, art/culture influences our actions/opinions, [and] if we create art/culture that channels the positive, then collectively we will grow.”
His new series, Archaic Revival—The Return to Wisdom, delves into the “Information Age,” which Slattum states we currently exist in. With an abundance of data at our fingertips, he believes that we are not using this information responsibly—that we must enter the “Wisdom Age.” Thus, Archaic Revival examines the conscious mind individually and collectively. Slattum enters the subconscious world seeking out artifacts of wisdom that lie within our true nature.
“These artifacts are within all of us, they always have been, but we’ve forgotten that they’re there as we’ve become external-driven as a society…In a time where we need it, if I could add just a bit more thoughtfulness into the world, then I’m a happy man.”
As with losing sight of wisdom, Slattum had once lost sight of his dream from childhood to become an artist. Age and experience convinced him to forget the dream, until he was “reminded” after a near-death experience in 2007.
“Every successful artist before me started out new. So I went out spending a bill on some paint supplies, came home and painted. From that moment I was a painter for life, and I always will be.”
He goes on to divulge on how his experience altered his perspective on art and life:
“The near-death experience didn’t just cause me to re-evaluate my actions, it completely changed me… my perspective lens, which is crucial to my art. It made me let go of stubborn answers and put me on a path of asking questions. And I think that philosophy is behind all my work. As I travel into these questions, I bring back visual souvenirs.”
Slattum is most stirred by indescribable events—episodes that cannot be spoken in words or understood in our conventional realities; “experiences that go against conventional understanding of the physical world.”
“These are the wells from which I drink.”
As such, he has remained transparent in his creative endeavors, with his emotions translating directly into his work. He describes strength as being able to place yourself in front of others, open and vulnerable, regardless of knowing that not everyone will appreciate his art.
“When you find a grain of pure truth within, it’ll ring true throughout. I don’t really think about what others will think of my work—I just show up, go with the flow, and try to be as true to me as possible.”
At the same time, he is equally, if not more, judicious with his work, continually looking to expand in technique, imagery and resonance.
“It’s difficult to like your own work as a critical artist trying to constantly improve. I pick everything apart once it’s finished, try to learn my lesson, and create better work next time.”
He maintains the same process in making an impact in life—by taking accountability for his role in the world.
“If you realize that you are the universe at an individual subjective level, then you can start controlling your reality. Not only can you steer your way towards a future you create, but you’re also taking responsibility at an individual level for all the suffering you might cause. When you make a positive difference, you’re giving more than you take, you’re creating rather than destroying.”
Falling in line with picking apart his work, Slattum has been experimenting with sanding techniques. Working with a manifold of thinly layered hues so that he may scratch though, he exposes hidden colors for intricately pigmented tessellations.
Slattum will open his Archaic Revival series this August in Beaverton, Oregon at the HART Gallery. Following that, he will be part of a large show at the Copro Gallery in Santa Monica in October with some of his “personal heroes” including Clive Barker, Chet Zar and Chris Mars. Slattum’s work can also be seen online where he shares his progress step-by-step so one can view a piece “go from infancy to awkward teen-stage…to wise old sage.”
After he completes his tour with Archaic Revival, he’s looking forward to being liberated from the constraints of the series and plans to just “paint, paint, paint.”
Something interesting about him that no one else knows:
“Back in 2008, every time I went for a walk, no matter where I was, I’d find a crystal clear marble on the street. I have no idea where they came from. But I have a big jar full of mystery marbles in the studio.”