ROBERT LEMAY

 "Nothing is more abstract than reality."
- Giorgio Morandi


My new series is titled, "Big Screen TV." I'm using my grid technique to highlight the digital. These days oil paintings often compete for wall space with big screen TVs and this series plays with that reality. 
In my series, "Grid," I paint square by square, row by row. The painting may appear digitized but is meticulously hand painted. I've always used the grid to scale up my photos but leaving traces of the process creates a tension between the image and the squares of tone and colour which are reassembled by the eye.  
 
My series, “Mythology,” is a development of my book still lifes. As with my flower paintings, I reduce and simplify in order to focus on a single image. I’m looking at magazine covers as a contemporary subject, trying to unite the tradition of Holbein and Rembrandt with an exploration of the fashion and celebrity culture of today. The subjects in my paintings are not unlike the people John Singer Sargent would have been painting a hundred years ago.
I consider these portraits to be still lifes because they depict the magazine covers stripped of text, leaving only the title or barcode to indicate their source. I’m making a painting of a photograph rather than a conventional portrait. Gerhard Richter said he was trying to make a painting as exciting as a photograph and I’m extending this idea with the found subject of the fashion magazine.
These works wouldn’t be possible without the internet which allows one to search the globe to find images that have disappeared from the newsstands years or decades ago. In this way, the paintings represent the classic theme of memento mori or vanitas, reminding one of the passage of time and the fleeting nature of reality. 
I began thinking about a previous series I'd worked on where I painted more traditional book still lifes. In the same way that I wanted to pare down the traditional flower still life to a bold, single bloom, I also wanted to just look at a single book. After painting several book covers from our personal library, I came upon some old magazines on our shelves, and treated them in a similar way. With the magazines, I removed the text advertising the contents of the magazine and give priority to the model on the cover. I want to look beyond the advertising and captions such as "The Real Reason You're Not Losing Weight" and "Age Appropriate Denim" and see the person instead. 
I’m interested in the layers of transformations – from the transformation of the model, to the photoshopped image, which then becomes a ubiquitous image seen in grocery store aisles and on coffee tables. Unlike the mass produced glossy magazine cover, paint is a kind of skin, a unique surface.
The use of 'found' imagery echoes Warhol's use of tabloid photographs of Liz, Marilyn and Elvis and also the early paintings of Gerhard Richter who also employed the strategy of using newspaper images as his source material.