These paintings are a story of physicality or of finding. Using the body's scaffolding as a starting point to push into abstraction, to break the space between body and world, or skin and atmosphere, to undo the myth that things are separate. Jack is interested in how our bodies, like land, hold memories, how land, like skin across bones, holds onto the unfinished conversations of our ancestors, and how that shapes the images we make and how we see.
There's an episode of Louie (Season 3, Ep 5) where
Parker Posey shows off what a gift she is to our world. Where she
sits on the rooftop ledge of a very tall building admonishing Louie
for his nerves, explaining: "That's why you're afraid.… Because a
tiny part of you wants to jump, because it would be so
easy. But I don't want to jump. So I'm not afraid."
This is New York, a particular favourite of modern story telling
because its inhabitants are imagined as residing in some kind of
harmony with their environment-fitting in, emplaced, in place; part
of a conceptual and compositional frame of the city's articulation.
The awkwardness of distinction doesn't plague them.
At one point, Posey's character (Liz) tells Louie that she loves
to pine for North Dakota but doesn't want to exhaust that pleasure
by actually going there. Yes, New Yorkers know that any
residence in and of a natural landscape is no credible experience
of the Western subject, is best reserved for National
Geographic daydreams, beer advertisements and the like.
An unattached, floating fragment of something far greater, Liz
inhabits imprecise, mercurial spaces across worlds both discursive
With gushing and irrepressible gall she has Louie squeeze into a
ball gown in the confined changing room of a vintage clothing
She's an inexhaustible liar with a flair for an affecting
While we sit at home, concerned about her mental health, she
repeatedly unravels Louie's habitual frames of understanding,
poking at them, making them ripple.
The episode finds stable ground when she takes him to a deli to
do what all New Yorkers do-to annihilate the distance between their
own bodies and the world's, to enjoy a communion that is all form,
pure form, a ritual absolved of all but its most fundamental
symbolism: confirming, that is, the wrongness of the discrete
borderlines that we depend on to survive-most particularly the one
represented by our skin.
Yet Liz, this habitual transgressor, also affirms the need to
protect her skin's integrity when she declines the impulse to fall
from the rooftop. She paints this as a good thing. But as she does
so, her face is consumed by a dark, unreachable melancholy, and the
The desire to live inside the spaces between meaning-making is
some kind of defining condition of the modern. It's the place you
find reading Morrison or Faulkner, where conscious attention to
narrative becomes a matter of willed emergence from a dream. It is
our passion, and it is our lament: it is our drive towards
abstraction and purity; our decadent rebellion against a concurrent
devotion to articles of precision and exchange.
And it is that desire that Trolove is dealing in across these
paintings, describing a fraught contemplation over the impulse to
abstraction-and a reversing back from the same (to see what might
emerge in the unwrinkling). This tactile and formal struggle is
acutely played out through the language of the portrait, which
would generally seem to rely on an axiomatic conformity
to edges and backgrounds and hierarchies of presence.
A million miles from New York, in a place where discomfort in
one's own skin is both a mark of belonging and a signature of
authenticity, Trolove's paintings dare to tempt us out of
I imagine an unreasonably long hallway, grand, lined with these
paintings-a tide of them, abandoning the distinctions among their
faces, washing a visitor clean, immersing them in their flow.
'Creon Upton is a lawyer living in Auckland who enjoys
writing about art and other things when he gets a chance.'
Jack Trolove is an
Auckland based visual artist. He holds an MFA with distinction from
Massey University, and has work held in private and public
collections across New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Jack's work
currently explores the relationships between embodiment and liminal
spaces such as intergenerational memory and other states of
in-between-ness. He approaches figurative work as a kind of