Frequent themes of Gregory Scheckler’s contemporary art-making are
- Visual and Cognitive Experiences of Transience, Change, Impermanence, and Transformation
- Processes of Timespans, Waves, Cycles, and Feedback Loops as Bases of Improvisations
- Relationships to Nature, with references to Physics, Earth Sciences, Ecology, Astronomy, Neurology, and Biology
- Sparse elegance of materials relying on repurposed, recycled/recyclable and sustainable materials.
- 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, sometimes quickly and sometimes very slowly.
Inspired by a deep love of the natural world, Gregory Scheckler investigated 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 and how they are moving, 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, and feels emergent and spontaneous.
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 and our participation within ongoing natural forces.
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 accessible media that many people can easily acquire, 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.
When working in silverpoint, the silver is from recycled and reused sources. Old forks and bowls found at thrift shops, or given to the artist, imply domesticity and the many complex histories of how and why materials like silver were valued. These materials seem to imply the whole of human greed and ingenuity and creativity — all while silverpoint slowly tarnishes in relationship to the environment and even our own breathing.
Other metals often include iron such as in found meteorites, that predate Earth but fell into the planet, or brass or aluminum or copper from old coins, or even pieces of recycled aluminum foil. Iron, like silverpoint, will tend to change appearance slowly over time, rusting.
The discoveries that make these drawing media available today resulted from the ancient and contemporary histories of human innovations, science, engineering, and raw happenstance. Therefore the artwork is a collaboration with vast swathes of contemporary cultures and economies.
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.
Gesture drawing, movement, observation, nature, science, economies of art media, and art histories blend together in Scheckler’s artworks.