Eight vivid paintings form the basis of the exhibition, their rich colors practically effervescing on the gallery’s crisp white walls. All take on the same motif, yet are slightly different from the next. “I tried as much as I could to be precise, to repeat not the image but the feeling of the image,” he said of the repetition, which he went to describe as much an exercise in precision as an allusion to history repeating itself, which is reflected in the way the show is designed, guiding visitors in circles around the gallery space.
The works depict Prometheus within the cave in a composition appropriated from’s
1868 painting of Prometheus. “I found his motif inspiring, and modified it based on my experience from being in the cave; the colors are carefully chosen from the lighting there,” he noted. Each of the eight paintings is filled with an assortment of multifarious symbols, namely eyes, flames, snails, and hot dogs. The eyes, a recurring image found in his past paintings, are “a symbol of the eternal, of time, or the divine,” and the flame, a teardrop of gold leaf, refers to Prometheus’s heroic act of delivering fire to mankind. The hot dogs, while completely unexpected, are meant to introduce an auditory element to the work; they’re meant to evoke the sound of biting into a hot dog, a sound that resembled the noises he heard while in the cave.
The snails, in addition to being an indicator of time, evoke the time Tovborg recently spent in Assisi, determined to channel the small Italian town’s namesake St. Francis of Assisi, through preaching to the birds at the famous basilica. “I preached about love to the birds so they would fly out and spread the word. And then once all the animals were informed about the revolution of emotions, we went inside of the church to preach to people,” he explained. The day ended with a meal, which for Tovborg, was a bowl of snails. “I felt really terrible, and I realized I would pay respect to these animals, so I dedicated one day where I just followed one snail around a little area,” he recalled, and it’s the experience that followed that the snails in the paintings represent. “I found poetry in its movement, its ability to always be present and in the now.”