Brad Pasutti. A Piquant, Unfolding Dream of Reason
In 1994, Brad Pasutti wrote of one of his pastel paintings depicting a labyrinthine Mexican street, and the many, painted windows into other dimensions and planes of meaning he’d interpolated in the image: “’Callejon’ means ‘narrow street of alleyway.’ The piece is derived from Guanajuarto, one of the colonial silver mining towns north of Mexico City. It is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets, illogical stairways, and subterranean passageways. Every night of my stay in Guanajuarto was filled with vivid dreams of wandering through the labyrinth.”
The dynamic fabric of light served as the foundation of texture and form in these early works, through an exacting refraction of planes, surfaces, and volumes of space. The images were complex – visual mazes drawing the viewer’s eye between reality and the imagined, the possible and impossible, evoking the intimate familiarity and prescience of dreams. Pasutti’s present body of work continues to explore the themes that have fascinated him for over twenty years of solo shows in Victoria and other cities. He describes these as, “…the multiplicity of being that emerges through the intertwining of the internal and the external, memories, fantasies, dreams, perceptual shifts, and the like…” In his most recent works, a new element is coming into prominence, that being a burgeoning sense of narrative structure. There is not one, core story being told; rather, the new works hold a door open to many and various narrative options.
How is this possible? The nearly paradoxical feat of visual storytelling, whereby multivalent sets of readings are simultaneously present and available from one visual text, is the result of archetypical, collective narrative elements being sifted through the unfolding compositions. Issues of love, obsession, loneliness, and trust – no doubt common to all of our collective, human experience – are mediated in pieces with titles like, Odysseus and Under Certain Circumstances, leaving plenty of room to project on to the visual text, with readings both personal and universal, epic and mundane.
Pasutti describes this mysterious alchemy thus: “Characters and possible situations, including the internal mental states of the characters, carry over from one piece into another, so that the series of larger works become interconnected like chapters in a non-linear narrative, or are alternative parallel narratives.”
Pasutti used to paint images like cultural memoirs, with erudite, visual references giving homage to historical works of art by painters and graphic artists who challenged the modes of perception, and who problematized the personal and collective reception of the painted image itself like Velázquez or Escher. Inevitably, these sensual, essentially Romantic paintings held a moody reflection on the nature of reality and offered a certain nostalgia – a sweet, pensive melancholy and longing. Looking at Pasutti’s newest works, one wonders if this newest, evolved preoccupation with the multiplicity of being is not, in fact, less nostalgic than realistically contemporary.
“I am interested in the polyphony of being – the ways in which we are often simultaneously engaged with multiple times, places and modes of self (memories, dreams, streams of consciousness, synaesthesia and ideaesthesia),” says Pasutti of his abiding, updated, perennial theme. “For example, I may be out walking the dog, I‘m engaged with his world view, perceiving the landscape and all that it invokes within me. I may also be listening to music which transforms the mood of the landscape or engenders a synaesthesia of patterns and kinetic sculptural forms. Add to the mix, talking with a companion either present or dislocated on the cell and all the reflections, trains of thought and shifts in frames of reference that involves…”
We live in an ‘Age of Information’ so saturated with messages and messaging, texts and texting, that our reality-scape at any given moment must be said to be multivalent in the extreme. With a necessarily pluralistic viewpoint operating on our moment- to-moment processing of sensory information, and a post-Modern refraction of perspective making a multi-tiered, epistemic evaluation of such stimuli unavoidable, we, as a cognitive culture, must be said to represent a hybridized form of sentience. With multiple ‘windows’ open at once on our cognitive ‘desktop’ at any given time, we could be said to have evolved (or devolved) to the cyborg estate of a highly complex, biological computer, filtering streaming information in multi-perspective, ever-flowing simulcast.
As Pasutti describes: “Checking emails or wandering through cyberspace or suddenly recalling an event, a dream, a passage from a book… All of these shifting, readjusting and intertwining states of being are what I want my paintings to be.”