The Sword Without, The Famine Within
June 28th - August 3rd 2019
Francois Ghebaly
2245 E Washington Blvd, Los Angeles CA


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As a figurative painter I'm interested in the process of raw materials transforming into signs and symbols on the surface of a painting; One and a half sticks of charcoal, a quarter pound of Van Dyke brown, and a half pound of ironoxide and graphite, have all been crushed and broken into the canvas, molded into images of the moon, the goat, and everything in between the unconscious and the unknown. It's kind of like ink becoming letters, words, and stories on a page.


For the four paintings in the show, I see each of them first and foremost as a place of slaughter and a sacred place of destruction. As a believer of images, the rebirth of these supposedly "killed" materials takes place in the realm of metaphors. The analysis and interpretation are mere stories, necessarily so, that bind us together, from me to you, from past to present.


For the longest time I thought art-making was a practice of giving material forms to intangible things like ideas, memories, or emotions that consciously or unconsciously resided in my psyche. A positive and creative process. And vice versa, my art objects were to be seen as if containing all that was invisible, embedded meanings to be mined, deciphered, and to be interpreted.


I found sacrificial ritual as a refreshing perspective to reexamine this equation of art object and meaning production I had set for myself. Sacrifices are communal activities that expiate the sin of the community, a ritual that points to the shared anxieties and insecurities of a group. The act of destroying calves, virgins, women, criminals, or marginalized members of the group – was a way of giving these invisible feelings a concrete form.


I think my initial interest in sacrificial practices was that these rituals resembled so much of the practice of painting - the gesture of isolating elements and giving them a concrete form; Either isolating a convict or a possessed, sacrifice is about locating the invisible emotions, ideas, and memories of a group onto a thing, an animal, or a person. But the gesture of making the invisible, ultimately visible by destroying it - either as an offering to God, or as a punishment - is something totally opposite to art-making which is a positive material creation. Sacrifice requires the theatrics of material destruction to gain any kind of meaning.


This is where I saw the connection to image-making, the process in which materials die when it enters the realm of metaphors. I like taking the stance that I'm a believer of surfaces and not of substances. As a figurative and representational painter whose job is to create and forge imitations - contrary to iconoclasts or modernists who would like to see materials pure or depictions of God unadulterated - I see my painting as a place where materials come to die. I think this is why I see my paintings as corpses.


The only difference I would say between a sacrifice and a painting is that while the theater of sacrifice is used as catharsis or as a tool to soothe the crowd, art does not heal anyone or anything in my opinion. To me art opens up wounds and sprinkles salt over it. I think narratives heal. And that’s what historians or analysts do, but not the artwork.


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Press release by Alexander Boland
Photography by Lance Brewer

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