Using reflective aluminum grounds and a reduced color palette, John Finneran’s enigmatic paintings merge simple visual motifs—lips, eyes, noses, mussel shells, triangles, and trashcans—with brushy abstraction. The results are at once deeply personal and flatly ubiquitous. The iconic nature of Finneran’s imagery—its repetition and lack of illustrative detail—provides an anchor to the expressionistic and abstract elements of the paintings without locking up the compositions. There is a complex oscillation here; between the painterly and the graphic, one-shot gestures and heavily worked surfaces. Finneran pushes the paintings towards a between space, a space of uncertainty and untethered meaning, a contemplative field without answers.
The central series in the exhibition is LW’s the Sea, which translates statements from a text piece by Lawrence Weiner into five discreet paintings. Finneran has reordered the statements as titles for his paintings: To the Sea, Bordering the Sea, At the Sea, On the Sea, and From the Sea. These paintings are built around the specificity of the language in the titles, the positioning of the self to the sea. Rather than a pictorial interpretation of Weiner’s piece, Finneran’s paintings offer a psychological interpretation of what the statements feel like.
The title of the exhibition conflates a practical description of a type of spatial device present in the painting Bordering the Sea—a literal border which describes an interior rectangle set inside the rectangle of the panel itself—and a perceptual border enforced by the aluminum ground’s resistance to light absorption. Finneran’s metal surfaces are themselves borders, holding us aside from a visual trip to another place. They hold us in front of something like the sea. Immense, impassive and patient. This is whatever is outside of us, everything besides us.