New York-based artist Ford Crull explores the expressive power of personal and cultural symbols in a series of densely painted and vividly colored compositions. Crull uses identifiable images such as hearts, wings, crosses, and the human figure, as well as geometrical emblems and abstract forms whose meanings are less explicit. Words, in the form of cryptic, fleeting phrases, also animate Crull’s pictorial world. Crull employs a myriad of symbols, which variously imply a sexual unfolding, romantic suffering, occult wisdom, and transcendental release. These symbols coexist in a psychic atmosphere in which they overlap, dissolve, and reappear with a kind of furious insistence. There is a strong diaristic element in Crull’s work, with each canvas serving as a kind of painterly journal containing reflections and reveries. As meditations on emotional chaos, they enter into a world of competing impulses and simultaneous transmissions, seeking a resolution that is both cathartic and mysterious.
Crull’s paintings have been included in major exhibitions, including the 1989 Moscow exhibition, Painting After the Death of Painting, curated by Donald Kuspit. Other more recent solo exhibitions of his work include Carter Burden Gallery, New York; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama; Bund1919, Shanghai, China; and Arte 92, Milan, Italy, among others.
The ambiguity of the image is central to my expression in art. The derivation of my symbols, pulled out from the oceanic flow of an unconscious, devolved dream state, reflects a necessity for metamorphosis and recombination that deprives the image of any safe haven.
My images are involved in a perpetual dance, a narrative flow that destroys any preconceived notions or verbal meanings. The viewer is free to associate around the visual text which I present, supplying his own interpretations from his own experiences. Ambiguity of the image forces the viewer into a more intensive study of the work, so that the deeper layers of reality are unveiled, revealing the many facets of an idea, the many levels of its nature. This is the real pleasure of my painting: to present a tableau of associations, an unceasing unfolding of meanings, to offer a glimpse of a more universal state of consciousness, unbound by the limitations of time and convention.
There is a strong element of the diarist in the work, with each painting serving as a kind of painterly journal of reflections and reveries, set loose from their origins in specific events. In a wider sense, these paintings constitute a kind of intensive search to wrest meaning from anarchy of feeling. As meditations on emotional chaos, they enter into a world of competing impulses and simultaneous transmissions, seeking a resolution that is both cathartic and mysterious.
How do we see ourselves in any kind of personal integrity, how do we form a sense of Self and identity without constantly feeling that it’s being ebbed out into the internet or into a complete media overload? So, for me, it is a way of developing one’s own iconography, a personal metaphorical shield of like, ok, how can I maintain my sense of self, my artistic integrity in the face of all this?
My particular interest in symbols is that I found that they have an intrinsic power, a drama and mystery that is fascinating for me because they influence and formulate our sensibilities – and that resonates deeply within me.
I find that there’s a beauty, simplicity and elegance in these symbols, especially ones that are historically and culturally used over and over and often in different contexts with different meanings.