A couple of hundred years ago, the confidence to paint what was seen but unseen garnered ridicule for the Impressionists and Expressionists. With time, viewers began to understand that these artists were not seeing things as they were on the surface; they were seeing more than what was on the surface. Like Giotto and Duccio, who discovered if they applied paint to canvas in a certain order it made things look three-dimensional, the Impressionists realised that water was not a solid blue surface and the Expressionists realised that sometimes you are so morose, everything turns blue.
Back in the day, when these advances in painting were made, it was the first time; we were still learning how to see. Now, some would say, post-photo-realism, an artist's freedom to paint their own reality is par for the course. Except for when it's not.
To begin with, Jack Trolove's paintings are enormous. In The body remembers, some demand an entire Whitespace Gallery wall, and fortunately, in this show, they get it. The extra space allows you to get quite intimate, and intimacy is what Trolove is after. All the works are portraits, some meeting the viewer's gaze with alarming directness and some looking skyward, allowing for the most masterful glimmers in his subjects' eyes. Close proximity, combined with Trolove's exquisite gesture, allows the viewer to see his subjects more clearly, more accurately. He works in oil, building up what must appear in mid-process as the most disparate of colour blocks that, when finished, result in a literally multi-faceted likeness.
Trolove talks about his process as a "re-membering", a process of putting people back together (in Trolove's other professional life he works in mental health, making his ability to reassemble his subjects even more poignant). He claims, with the title, that the body remembers: remembers what it has been and what it’s becoming, and what the world has inflicted on it. Trolove acknowledges that though the body itself may remember, like the audiences of the Impressionists and Expressionists, those who are looking may not always see. Getting up close also allows the viewer a closer look at Trolove's sheer skill - his colour placement is sensitive and deft, uncanny in its deliberateness. Importantly, his portraits show colours, depth, that are not immediately visible; he paints identities that are not fixed.
Trolove's technique allows him to paint between things, specifically between the exterior and the interior of people. The dynamism of his paint application gives a sense of movement and flux without rendering the subject unstable, in fact quite the opposite - they appear more balanced and complete in his renderings. This approach also allows Trolove to convey transition, as in We've always been here or, less explicitly, Weaving language and bones I & II, which depicts his sister at a time of great personal change.
In his essay on Trolove, Creon Upton cites an episode of the sitcom Louie, but I will cite the great masterpiece of post-modern cinema Clueless. In the film, the hero, Cher Horowitz, consoles a slighted friend by assuring her that her romantic adversary is "a full-on Monet. [...] It's like a painting, see? From far away, it's OK, but up close, it's a big old mess." Cher declares elsewhere in the film, while theorising about Ren & Stimpy, that the cartoon is actually, in fact, "way existential." Up close, most people are a big old mess, and many people spend their lives willing somebody to see that. Jack Trolove sees between things, and he shows us what he sees, articulately and with paint.