Themes

Frequent themes of Gregory Scheckler’s contemporary art-making are 

  • Relationships to Nature, with references to Physics, Earth Sciences, Ecology, Astronomy, Neurology, and Biology
  • Visual and Cognitive Experiences of Transience, Change, Impermanence, and Transformation
  • Processes of Timespans, Waves, Cycles, and Feedback Loops as Bases of Improvisations
  • Relationships to Philosophies and Art Histories, through painting, photography, and drawing

An overall sensibility is that the world is transforming, while the artist is changing too. Therefore the artworks are also transforming, changing while viewed and created.

Unstuck Series, infinite loop animation, graphite on recyclable aluminum

Methods 

Gregory Scheckler pulled apart the methods of his figurative-realist painting training, and looked into his processes for developing imagery. Beneath them, he found a constant reliance on gesture-drawing approaches, improvisation, and careful observation of the natural world. He focused and intensified these methods into new forms, making the underlying cognitive and observational processes of change and transformation central to the concepts of new artworks. 

The movements of the artist and the viewer relate to a wide range of natural patterns. However, the artworks are not depictions of what natural forms look like, so much as poetic recordings and reinterpretations of them, subject to ongoing changes such as accretion, erasure, recycling, and tarnishing over time. Main forces of the movements used to make the imagery are attractions (coming together, such as gravity) and repulsions (moving apart, such as radiation). These movements are related to observations of natural forms and forces, but generated through improvisation, so that rather than wholly planned, the artworks’ imagery is grown, or feels emergent and spontaneous.

The flash of graphite in a drawing, creating visual movement for the viewer

A Visual Percussion: Timing and Rhythm

Every artwork has a certain time exposure; quite brief for some photographs and quite long for some painting-drawings. This is a reality of how long it takes to create the artwork, as well as a metaphor for concepts of change.

Many of Scheckler’s timings relate to natural processes like orbits and spin, such as beginning and ending a project from dawn to dusk, or longer durations and transits, such as Equinox to Equinox of the Earth related to the Sun. Relationships to astronomy are part of our daily measure, nested within the artworks. In contrast, some of the artworks are intended to be perpetually unfinished, always subject to erasure and recycling. Timing and its cycles develop a physical realism that is similar to how the natural world and we ourselves cycle through many oscillations and transits every day, a kind of visual percussion, based in the fundamental recognition that everything changes, transforming from one form to another.

Local and Accessible Common Materials

The materials are usually easily accessible media that many people can use, but each medium also evokes complex histories, economies, and ecologies.

For example, sparse and focused, yet richly dark and reflective, graphite’s complex history includes how it was relied on by indigenous American tribes for pottery and ceremonial face paints, by art academies for its beauty, as a critical mapping medium during the US Civil War, and today as an essential ingredient for producing metals, lubricants, energy, and batteries. A necessary part of humanity: we are carbon-based life forms, mixed with a lot of water. But because it is made of carbon, it is also a concern related to fundamentals of climate change. And it becomes the common, accessible school pencil. Gregory Scheckler chooses materials that appear simple and common, but which provoke and rely on deep cultural and economic relationships.

Vermont Graphite in its natural form, found by the artist.

Digital Media add a new layer of materials and methods too. First, Scheckler chooses low-cost and easily available software to build digital imagery via smartphone and tablet — basic media typical today. These tools are built by thousands of engineers, designers, and coders… the artwork is therefore a collaboration with vast swathes of contemporary cultures and economies. The devices also mean that light (as projected from a screen) and electricity (mainly from his solar-powered house) become the primary bases of the look and feel of the animations.

Cultural and Social Contexts

Several cultures’ ancient philosophies focused on ideas of ongoing change among cycles in nature, such as the fragments of Heraclitus of Ephesus, who wrote On Nature, which may have been the first comprehensive written philosophical treatise in the Western tradition – though only tiny fragments of it exist today. He was famously quoted as stating that

“One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs.”

The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, LI, p. 53, Kahn translation).

That sense of transience is almost exactly contemporary with the writings of the Buddha, of Lao Tzu, and many other cultural traditions.

Updated contemporary knowledge gained from the natural sciences amplifies types and kinds of change too, such as recent discoveries about how the universe is expanding. Modern equations don’t all apply to the scale of the artworks, but viewed as fuel for artistic inspirations and metaphors, they often point to a mobile, dynamic cosmos within which we are both embedded and participant. Science-laden imaging and reading often serves as inspiration for Scheckler’s artworks.

Regarding art histories, many of Scheckler’s artworks exist in multiple formats, for example as digital animations in addition to physical wall art such as a drawing, painting, or print. These multiple presentations develop a literal diversity of interactions and forms of the finished artwork, in contrast to the singular, heroic, original painting emphasized by earlier generations of abstraction, as well as in contrast to the monocular single point-of-view and mad stillness of most representational, figurative art. This implies much broader, more horizontal or ‘Superflat’ economies of the arts today (Superflat is a term coined by Murakami to describe how art can be accessible at every part of the art world, from popular culture to elite musuems). Some call such approaches a transmedia art method, but for Scheckler almost all of it starts with drawing and painting.

Gesture drawing, movement, observation, nature, science, economies of art media, and art histories blend together in Scheckler’s artworks. 

Reviews

Here are some comments from noted experts and reviewers:

  • Joe Thompson, former Director of MASSMoCA: “Gregory can paint, but more than that he couples traditional (and beautifully realized) techniques – glazes, sfumato, deft brushwork – with fresh ideas about representation, narrative, and symbol.” 
  • Keith Shaw, art critic The Berkshire Eagle and Artscope Magazine: “Trained under figurative artists here and abroad, he has significant technical skills, and is an accomplished draughtsman and painter… Scheckler is a thinking artist with genuine ability.”  
  • Kate Abbott, editor Berkshires Week, author, poet: “Scheckler paints with a clear understanding of zoology, physics, mythology, art history… with enjoyment in exploration that feels very much like the Renaissance curiosity that he references… his real skill look effortless, like a gymnast turning aerials on a balance beam, but we feel the effort, the patience and grit and skill it takes, and it turns us breathless.”