In my most recent series of drawings, Conflict and Interest, I’ve been looking at images of unrest in the Middle East and Turkey culled from various online news sources. Through the series, I hope to document, and make more permanent in some way, visual representations of the plights of unknown people before they and their struggles disappear into the depths of the Internet. While one image of these conflicts may prevail as representative in the public consciousness, typically through viral repetition, the context, the fuller story, all too often get buried in the medium as the public’s interest moves on to the next new thing. This same concept was central to the predecessor of the series, January 28, which was based on obituary photographs from that date in the newspaper. The images represent both a memory of the survivors and a final public record, which one day could be all that is left of the individual and his/her life. My hope is to provide a permanent context, albeit an artificial one, so that the possibility of what these images meant to someone or in a place in time remains.

My most recent drawings are on sheets of acrylic/Plexiglas with oil paint (oil paint pen). I use different colors on each sheet and layer multiple sheets on top of each other. This application of the image in layers and colors obfuscates but in the sense of adding depth and richness, mirroring the fact that this image was captured in an actual time and place. In my most recent paintings, I paint the tips of medical q-tips and embed the shafts into marine-grade plywood in a grid of holes that are machine drilled 1 centimeter apart. The surfaces of these paintings are thus raised above a traditional ground, allowing the dynamics of color in space to animate and move. Shadow play from the raised surface emphasizes the infrastructure of the work.

Through layers and texture and stacking of imagery, my work provides complex, discovery-based viewing experiences that are emotional and reflective. The spatial depth in my drawings and paintings engages and entertains as forms materialize and dematerialize. In one moment, they might look like pure and physical abstraction, in the other, multiple interpretations of formative images or scenes. Most of my work throws shadows, inviting people to move around a piece and look in the sides to see how the depth and color relationships are made. They draw you in. As I overheard one viewer say once (the woman who later became my wife), “I just want to get small and crawl in there, make it my home, and never be bored.” Who could ask for anything more than that?

Ashe Laughlin