Nicholas Wolfson
ABOUT THE HISTORY LESSON…
October, 2018

It used to be that an artist in pursuit of a career had to confine himself to one “style” of painting.  Over time the artist could develop and grow within that style, and over time the style might evolve, but there had to be a kind of consistency.  It was best if his work remained “recognizable as his" so it could be said, “Ah, that painting is a Nicholas Wolfson – I recognize the style”. 

Maybe it’s still that way.  But I confess that I’ve lost the struggle to stick to just one thing.  I used to think it was a kind of failing.  Now, however, I’ve come to terms and I enjoy being all over the place.

In putting together THE HISTORY LESSON, I’ve made use of paintings that I’ve done in the style loosely called “Figurative Expressionism” - one of my favorite styles!

Figurative Expressionism has been useful to me in exploring two primary themes.
 
First, it challenges me to make paintings that have aesthetic appeal, yet which also take a critical view of social, political, and cultural issues.  It allows a combining of humor and seriousness to portray creepy villains and political buffoons.  (Skilled cartoonists have tilled this particular field for a long time.)  The challenge is to make the tragic, the ghastly, and the venal in contemporary life complex and attractive to the viewer. The tension for me as a painter is between making boisterous, intrusive pictures while also maintaining a high quality of artistic execution. I intend for my painting to be well-crafted yet sardonic, even rude. I want to get your attention but I don't want to drive you away!

The second theme in my work of this style relates to Buddhist sacred painting.  I enjoy exploring primal spiritual and emotional states - mostly relating to bliss and fear.  A varied assortment of characters appear, helping to enhance the experience - at least for me.  Some are clearly human, others are gargoyles, imagined totems, mind-blown imaginings, or mere grotesques.  There is something almost hallucinogenic in some of these images, as I hope you will find.

I have relied on the traditional use of drawing and composition combined with a free and liberal use of color.  I think bright colors serve as a foil for the satirical and creepy aspects of my work and make them more palatable and attractive to you the viewer.
 
I am influenced by surrealists such as Rene Magritte and Christian Schloe. Ordinarily, like them, I don’t much mind that some of my paintings are obscure and difficult to figure out. This allows viewers to participate in unraveling the narrative of the painting for themselves, and perhaps to have new insights.  However, as you can see, in assembling THE HISTORY LESSON I have taken some liberties, and have added written words to impose a certain specific interpretation on each work in the show. 

May I end by saying, don’t forget to vote in November!  And if you're NOT eligible to vote in U.S. elections, encourage those who ARE eligible to go to the polls.