Displaying an extraordinary ability to move successfully between figuration and abstraction, Gerald Collings’ work is also known for its continuity of ideas and the fact that no matter what is being depicted, the quality of his painted mark is fleshy.
Throughout his work, Collings creates many different composite types of metamorphic creatures to convey ideas. They are heavily symbolic and often difficult to interpret. His most recent paintings seem to flirt with a kind of eerie illustration, while simultaneously referencing weird cartoons, but it is not as simple as that. The artist’s complex visions provide a captivating layer to the worlds he creates. Worlds that could be described as expressive, emotional, mysterious, full of angst, and sometimes even haunting.
One of the weirdly cartoonish creatures, inhabiting Collings’ strange world, is the lone subject of Clown. The painting’s title is clearly ironic, as the subject seems more of a swamp monster than anything else. Collings painted the protagonist in the midst of posing for a portrait. Determined to thwart the horrific, the grotesque composite creature’s face, with unseeing eyes and a mouth open wide, is one of the more humorous versions in the artist’s work.
Besides Clown, and in what looks like a contemporary take on Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s portraits, Profile, appears to show a calm creature composed of different shades of green intestines and fluid chewing gum.
Taking Over, is an example of one of the artist’s primordial settings. It seems to depict a surreal landscape resembling a relief map. Deep within the undergrowth, bursting from its pod in foamy effusion and camouflaged by eons of evolutionary time to perfectly mimic its earthly environment, careful dark green contours miraculously transform into a brighter green growth.
In Ancient Voices and Diseased, taller semi-figurative forms seem to coagulate on the surface of the canvas. They suggest close-ups of some kind of fleshy flora architecture, which points to a molested landscape as well as the mangled minds of its inhabitants.
Marked by a frozen, poetic, even eerie sensibility, Collings' paintings are meant to be not direct or literal but provocative and suggestive, inciting investigation of symbols, imagery, and emotions stored in the human psyche that the imagery evokes.
Underlying his artistic expressions, a more socially-oriented commentary addresses repression of the human imagination and subconscious desires to be connected to the chaos of modern life. By marrying anxiety with self-deprecating humor and combining the personal and the political, the artist’s urge to respond to the world’s brutality is expressed through a visual language that is clearly and authentically his own.
Gerald Collings was born in 1974 in Tampa, Florida. He lives and works in New York. His work has been exhibited at museums such as the HISK in Ghent, Belgium, the Contemporary Art Museum in Tampa, Florida and in galleries in New York, Belgium. Mexico and Paris. The artist’s first monograph is scheduled to be published in November, 2016.