Eye On: Alex Roulette

Avant/Garde Diaries
Feb 27, 2013 10:48PM

Alex Roulette’s paintings are explorations of a fictional time and place in what seems to be an in-between land of longing and exploration. By photographing landscapes and collecting supportive imagery, Roulette constructs an environment that feels vaguely familiar and yet slightly unsettling. Roulette lives and works in New York City.

The subjects you paint seem to be a curious but somewhat displaced youth. Did your upbringing in the mid-west influence the nature of your characters?I believe the Midwest, or more broadly suburbia, does an excellent job in producing dreamers, like the characters in Richard Yates’ classic novel Revolutionary Road. They are filled with a longing for something better, but their desires are never truly fulfilled. They are left feeling disappointed and alone, but it’s the dream that keeps them moving forward. I’m interested in aspects of nostalgia that speak universally, like desiring something that is maybe close enough that you can almost touch it but remains completely unattainable. In my work, I’d like to piece together a fable about an archetypal longing that explores my own deeply personal desire for past experiences. I’m equally fascinated with how nostalgia can mythologize the past and thus alter perceptions of our own personal narratives. The youthful figures in my paintings are perhaps going on their own journey to find something better or find their place within the expanse. The next discovery could be down the road or just over the hill. 

Does photography play a large role in the creation of your paintings?I use photographs as a point of reference, but I want to capture a moment that never actually happened and paint people suspended in a landscape that they’ve never set foot in. Depicting these fictional scenes in a believable way challenges our assumptions about the representation of reality. Using photographic source material brings immediacy to the paintings but also forces the viewer to question the accuracy of the scene. I’d like the realism to spark curiosity and a sense of wonder because they feel inherently false. Before I paint anything, I plan out the whole image. I’ll first make loose sketches and notes about a painting and let it evolve over time. I then start gathering reference images from my large database of photos I’ve taken while traveling, as well as found material. I then start constructing the painting by combining various fragments of the references. This part of the process can be difficult and usually involves a lot of trial and error before I get it right. Once I start painting, the process to the final image takes an average of two weeks if I’m painting full time, sometimes more or less depending on the size. In the end, the painting goes through a lot of stages and processes before it’s finally finished.

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