Recommendation by DeWitt Cheng
Three years ago, in "Catch My Fade", Seamus Conley showed us that realist paintings of silent, meditative figures, alone in nature, could address the concerns of hectic contemporary life. His meditative protagonists effectively are stand-ins for the viewer, "daydreaming or...wrapped up in one's internal universe while simultaneously existing in the moment of the external world." In the eight oils on canvas and three graphite drawings on paper comprising "Paradise Syndrome", Conley continues to explore the dichotomy of inner and outer worlds, reflecting on our mental states in a seductive and incessant digital age where reality and virtuality increasingly merge.
In "Analog Daze" and "Blissed", a young man and a young woman, dressed in contemporary style (baseball cap, earring, and tattoos for him; a sporty dragon-motif shirt-dress for her) are caught in reflection, set against purplish-gray evening skies. A young girl sitting beside a circular window (also suggestive of a stylized open eye) in "Trillian" gazes out at the darkening clouds. "Gaze Faze" presents a young man wearing a hoodie, perched atop a mountain crag, silhouetted against the panorama of cloud-topped peaks; a comparison to Caspar David Friedrich's men confronting the sublime comes to mind. Four paintings of young women's heads, heavily made up and partially illuminated by digital-screen light reflections (think of astronaut Dave Bowman's visor in "2001: A Space Odyssey" as he ventures beyond Jupiter), are all fashion-industry chic. Are the perfectly manicured models in "Morpheme", "Oblivia", "Synthia", and "Descent" real people, or, as their names suggest, androids? A trio of small pastel and graphite drawings on paper show Conley to be a virtuoso draftsman - and a keen observer of everyday life in fraught times.