Autumn’s Song And The Failing Sun (Mount Tremper, Fall 2020), 2020-21; oil, Flashe, paper on canvas, 52 x 50 inches and A Place For Dreams, 2021; oil, Flashe, paper on canvas, 35 x 36 inches.
It took several years for Austin Eddy to find his voice as a painter. Part of his struggle was his awareness of the artists who came before him. " History is one of those inescapable things. You are always crashing into your predecessors." Eddy had to find a way to navigate the presence of the past, but he was also interested in picking up where others had left off. "The challenge was to find a way to say something without mining too much or taking too little."
While Eddy was at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, he reached a point where he felt "bogged down" by narrative figuration. Determined to shed the skin of representation, he moved into a form of language-based hieroglyphic abstraction. "I needed to cut everything out in order to find a way to speak a story without telling the viewer everything." Omitting the figure forced Eddy to rely on tone, color, and the relationship of shapes to express himself.
During this transition from hieroglyphic paintings, a central form divided time and place in Eddy's canvases. That form slowly transformed into a boat-like structure that resembled an individual sitting on the back of a bird. Eventually, only the bird remained.
By 2018, Eddy had honed a language of his own, a hyper-flattened style that lies somewhere between figuration and abstraction in which he reduces the birds' essential features to playful shapes and colors.
Birds per se don't interest Eddy. Instead, they are functional, providing a place to hang narratives rooted in semi-autobiographical experiences. Eddy describes his birds as "a conduit for understanding the human condition" and a "metaphor for the burden of existence."
Even though Eddy gravitated to abstraction, his work remains personal. For instance, a recent series about grief alluded to the cycle of nature and how it brings things into existence and reclaims them when they reenter the earth.
Eddy likens trying to find his voice to working in a swamp; ideas often become muddy or muddled. "You think you're on a clear path. Inevitably something will change, and you have to renegotiate your understanding. You may reach a point when the work doesn't make sense or feels unsatisfying because there is never a right answer."
It took Eddy multiple iterations of painting to find a way to visually express what he was seeing and to learn how to articulate it. While he admits that this experience was frustrating, he also considers it the most rewarding part of the creative process.