"In order to be created, a work of art must first make use of the dark forces of the soul." (Albert Camus)
My name is V.F. Wolf and I am a mixed-media painter who currently maintains a studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico but grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. I am employed as a night watchman at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. I was an officer in the Army Reserve from 2000-2007 and have traveled extensively throughout the United States and lived in Egypt for a time. I received my Bachelor's degree in Art History (2007) and a Bachelors of Fine Art in painting (2011) from Rhode Island College. In addition, I received my Masters of Fine Art from Massachusetts College of Art and Design (2013). I also received a Certificate in Painting Studies (two-year program) from Rhode Island School of Design (2018).
I paint mixed media semi-abstract grotesque mask-like faces which analyze the dark side present in every society. In particular, my recent work speaks to my early adult life in the military. I am not illustrating my time in the military through this work; but instead elucidating more universal themes I experienced: anger, sadness, frustration and confusion. The way in which I combine and arrange the abstracted heads and figures creates a mysterious and uncertain world; inviting the onlooker to use their imaginations too fill in the narrative. My paintings are created through the process of actively manipulating the oil paint over a textured surface. Layers are built up by overlapping and using violent strokes thus, creating various densities and textures. The palette is mostly garish/acidic colors, colors of discord. Occasionally, a bright color pops out of muddy ground. One can witness traces of color buried beneath, suggesting the passage of time invested in making the pieces. Like memories, paint layers are built one on top of the other, until the right combination is reached in my mind. Then and only then I feel the painting is done. I feel this interplay of image versus technique helps to convey my message to the viewer in a direct and concrete way.
My inspirations include: The early combine works of artist Robert Rauschenberg, The Italian art movement: Arte Povera and The London School as exemplified by artists such as Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon. The philosophy of Albert Camus and my time spent in Egypt with the military.
“Abject Art… inherently disrupts conventional identity and cultural concepts.” (Wikipedia)
I want my art to be repulsive and attractive. I paint the ugly and disturbing, mask-like figures because I use them as metaphor to analyze the shadow that lies in every societies sub-conscious, that part of the psyche that craves violence and destruction.
This fascination of studying the dark side of man most likely started when I was a young man in the military. I would witness the violence and brutality on a daily basis and this became the starting point that informed much of my artwork. My art is the by-product of thinking about my life, in particular my military experiences.
I use my military experience as source material only and that's it. I would never do direct illustrations of my military experience, that's not universal enough. I am looking at my time in the military as something to pull more universal themes from, which include anger, frustration, happiness, sadness, etc… I feel the military was my first art school for it taught me a lot about discipline and the daily practice of routine. But, that's where it ends for me, I am not a military/combat recorder of any type, but instead I am someone who uses his life experience as source material. The specifics of any conflict does not interest me, only the universal effect it has does, this effect is what I concentrate on.
With this stated, I find it a very crucial part of my practice to distance myself from whatever subject matter I’m portraying or else it becomes too much of a personal story. I’m after a wider context than that, I look to internalize a sense of universal/collective violence. I find that detachment comes up in the way the figurative is abstracted and distorted. The end product of the abstraction acts as a filter to keep my work from becoming too autobiographical.
It is this filtered residue that is a more concentrated form of my life, getting away from the personal to a place that is more universal.
I feel the way in which I combine and arrange the abstract heads/figures in the paintings creates a mysterious and quiet world that invites the viewer to use their imagination, as I did to create them, too fill the missing narrative.
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