Man In Water
Various Small Fires, Los Angeles
March 25 - April 29, 2023
Michael Hilsman works within the boundaries of classical painting to construct images populated by figures and objects that have, according to the artist, a "frayed connection to their own materiality." Using still life, landscape and portraiture, Hilsman presents fractured narratives that incorporate dream logic and exist in an environment that is equally comical, contemplative, spiritually-charged and absurd. Hilsmanʻs canvases portray a recurring figure partially obscured in varied scenes. There is a tenderness and vulnerability to this figure as he floats weightlessly in calm blue water, innocently touches the thorn of a cactus, and lurks behind citrus foliage allowing his ear to serve as the viewer's entry point to the body. While Hilsmanʻs works are imbued with potentially weighted associations; a revolver, playing cards, and the leather glove in Man With Book In Landscape, the fragments in these compositions remain just shy of full articulation, their edges blurred, while still conveying a sense of nearness in the midst of a vast unknown.
Man In Water contains paintings that infringe on the theatrical, inhabiting a space where the objects function as props for a spectacle that has just concluded, and curtains of flora and fauna conceal esoteric meaning. The recurring images in the paintings comprise a lexicon which the artist considers to be "letters in an alphabet that I myself am still trying to learn." Hilsman's canvases often include a horizon line, a distinct mark between water and landscape, or a metaphysical delineation between earth and sky. The figure and rudimentary objects in Hilsman's work seem to exist in various stages of transmutation, at the precipice of disappearance, fragmentary, and in flux.
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