Eric Jones and the Seamless Negligible Frankensteins of Youth by Ray Ogar

>>> COPYRIGHT 2005

I had the honor of attending graduate school with the painter Eric Jones. Here is a short analysis of his work circa 2004 to 2006.

Eric Jones, painter, embroiderer, digitizer. Like the modern canvas, Eric’s work stretches our instinctual conceptions of what makes a painting. In his earlier work you might argue about texture, paint, and fabric grids. Now though, he has reduced the tactile qualities of his creations to nothing. Minimal? Only in the sense that his work deals directly with the idea of surface. As Eric’s paintings have moved from actual canvas to digital compositions on smooth paper, so has his interest in the surface of reality and how the real world marks itself on the bodies of the young.

Initial inspection of Eric’s work reveals an implicit use of the hand. I mean this in two ways. His hand, the hand of the artist, exists in all his work. His earlier paintings showcase “hand done” creations. There are his traditional treatments of figure on craft paper spanning 7 feet. Later you discover the figures or characters are actually meticulous constructions, collages that have been thoroughly problem solved so that lighting and skin color match between various body parts. These are works where the hand was used to cut and construct and paste. Eric’s later work moves into large embroidered canvases. Whatever figure or character exists on these fabrics, now exists as a pattern sewn by hand into the surface. The fabric is a computer screen? Maybe to me, but Eric would tell you he did not anticipate this relationship of gridded fabric to the pixelation of digital image making—this became his next painting phase. Now, the canvas becomes a monitor, a screen, a hyper-flattened surface. Eric’s characters are constructed using digital techniques. And with the computer he smooths out the transitions between collaged body parts, flattening his characters’ frankensteinian origins. The computer is the tool that helps him snip away the stitches of traditional collage revealing more overtly the nature of his girls, his gangs, his outcast youth. But I neglect to mention Eric’s other hands. The missing ones.

As Eric’s work moves from the nearly traditional canvas to the digital realm I cannot help noticing the hand in his work. Eric’s earlier work depicts figures drawn or partially painted. As a viewer I easily forgive the lack of finger or palm in some figures; this is implicit to the “half drawn” feel to each painting. For me this does not detract from the composition. Eric later mentions that he has always had trouble drawing hands. And I mention, this is irrelevant to the earlier work because hands are at times there and not. You could easily argue that without knowing this fear or inability, the artist has simply chosen not to drawn certain body parts. This circumstance of his characters is particular to Eric’s early paintings; I would argue this is because these works, these worlds are made from paint. Half finished realities, but complete in themselves. Jump to Eric’s later work, his digital work—pixels, tiny boxes of color one rearranges on a screen—reveals a distinct loss of the hand. These new creations are flat and hands-free, a button was pushed and the computer renders the final printed surface as a phantom of a real canvas. Glance at his paintings now, the hand is missing, the limb is phantom in more ways than one. Girl gangs wearing quilted patterns, smooth faces, beautiful skin, tattoos across their pubescent surfaces, some hold large chains—some members are missing hands, one girl is missing a leg. As Eric’s hand seems to evaporate from the surface of the painting so does the limbs of his characters. With each new idea, Eric slowly amputates the texture of his humanness in making a painting. And with each new removing of himself in the process, his paintings become ever more critical of the world.