This work is about
the geology of time; a layering of events through history leading up
to this moment. Captain Cook's letters, the U.S. Constitution,
family papers, the correspondence of ordinary people, these are bits
of history on which our present lives are built. Measuring devices
such as a slide rule and a compass, tools, books, charts, maps,
refer to once useful objects-now discarded-that were once part of
daily life and work. By delving back into historical imagery I want
to prompt reflection of what is lost: the passenger train, the
agricultural economy, the jazz era, the primeval forest. Images of
the natural world, such as plants and animals, are paired with
technology, like a cell phone keypad, to symbolize two still
interdependent elements seeking a balance.
The layering of the paintings is also geological, a build-up of
thoughts, emotions and physical interactions buried in the layers of
paint. We see only the surface, but everything underneath influences
what the surface eventually becomes. I use color to represent time,
the spectrum changing as the day moves on, the cycle of days
creating an atmosphere of hope and reassurance.
I have always been
interested in trying to understand more about the lives, times,
inventions and discoveries that have brought us to this moment. The
paintings are chronicles: atmospheres of thought, filled with words,
images and stories. Like a life lived, these paintings are layers of
information - partly obscured, partly revealed. When I begin to work
I use historic documents, personal letters, images from many sources
(including my own photographs) and found objects. I arrange them on
the panels as I search for connections, which will eventually reveal
meaning. I want the paintings to tell the story of a search within
which many strands of thought, and experience, exist.
by Susan Knowles
Just as his
artworks are both serious and playful, Andrew Saftel is very much
agrown up artist who makes art out of a childlike state of
observation and feeling. He manages the duality: living as a
concerned humanitarian and a joyful participant. Many who realize
that the only things we really know have been experienced in the
innocent and fully engaged state of wonder we knew as children,
endeavor to "get back" to that place and live fully on that level as
often as possible. Once the jockeying for position and
status-seeking fall away, we yearn for the sort of essential
experience that Saftel shows us in his works.
Andrew Saftel is a remarkable artist whose works bridge the gap
between a very directed state of mind and purposeful revel in
Saftel, the child, has picked the prettiest colors from the crayola
assortment pack and plucked small treasures from ground and wastbin.
A gingko leaf, a coral fan, a horseshoe nail or a flattened section
of balustrades are lain alongside areas of color. They suggest
undersea caverns, the earth's atmosphere seen from outer space,
urban scrawl, a bird's eye view of the planet or seaside landscapes.
Saftel's paintings become environments. He paints on and carves into
wood, staining and coloring more that paining; reshaping, gouging
and treating the wood more than actually making something from it.
He works into his panels, imbuing them soulful meaning as he endows
them with quiet knowledge. Wisps of messages are present in carvings
of backwards writing that remind us of school desks. Tools for
living, such as keys, magnets, and spoons are attached to the panels
as if they could be taken down and used at any moment.
Saftel weaves facts into feelings, and intellect into emotion,
forming a poetic fabric in which there are lots of interstices. The
works feel cool, hot, busy, relaxed, agitated or floating free.
After he triggers our reactions, Saftel leaves us clues to find a
more personal meaning. His often humorous titles play on his own
words and images, referring to our common experiences in life.
The objects Saftel garners from the world around him are tangible
shreds of where he has been. They function as bellwethers among the
strong winds and gentle breezes of feeling and thought. Saftel, the
intellectual, also knows how to deconstruct meaning. He embeds a red
book in panel entitled "Read". Above it a flattened triangle of red
metal forms an overall composition that denies the importance of the
book as a separate object. The homonyms red and read suggest a
confusion between what exists and what is learned. Perhaps until the
book is part of (embedded in) our existence, we will never know how
to read it.
Saftel's light touch and pleasing palette make his work easy to
approach and stayaround. Once possessed, the encounter becomes
prolonged, one's guard is let down and the dialogue continues. Webs
of words and thoughts and visual fragments speak on different
levels. They have been chosen and placed with affection and surety.
The careful and gentle touch of the artist is present still. In most
of Saftel's works the focal point advances and retreats, allowing
one's eye and mind a choice between catching something in the
foreground or background. Saftel creates atmosphere-dark towards the
edges and around prominent objects floating in central space, and
light and easily penetrable in the center where the sightless extend
to infinity. The darkness stresses the finiteness of boundaries and
encircles singular objects. One person's eye will be drawn to the
framing devices, another to the openings in between. The lines
become tangible, building block reality, while the airiness is
ephemeral, unformed and searching. Saftel moves from one to the
other, carving into the close and present wooden surface in a ritual
of hope, and dreaming and musing out into the ether in a quest for
Saftel's fondness for the discarded object, that fragment of a life
that signifies the whole gone by, gives his work a nostalgic feeling
that is not entirely in keeping with the enliveness of his palette.
The contrast is a telling one. The colors touch us deeply because
they are the colors of pink sunrises, orange sunsets, spring green
grass and all the hues of ocean blue- from the Caribbean's clear
aquamarine to the dark green-blue of the northern Atlantic. We have
felt the stirrings of harmony and completeness with the world in
those places. The leftover remnants of metal, wood, or glass that he
incorporates into the works are tied to a simpler time and a simpler
work ethic, the time of a predominately manufacturing society when
progress was linked to product and everyone's workday ended when the
shift changed. Saftel's works ride the balance between the liberated
spirit and the laborer.