H O N O L U L U E S C A P I S M
Jared Betts’ most recent series Honolulu Escapism is marked by a familiar sentiment. In a time when there is a prevalent tendency to seek distraction from reality by engaging with fantasy and fiction, the sources from which Betts draws inspiration are recognizable as fixtures of contemporary pop culture. Betts’ paintings simultaneously capture the colourful whimsy of television characters from Sailor Moon to Disney and explore the aesthetics of contemporary digital media such as video games and cyberpunk. Betts’ paintings are truly a product of being, thinking, and playing in the 21st century. Betts creates a convergence of nebulas, wormholes, and neon lights to construct extraordinary celestial dreamworlds that distill the essence of contemporary fantasy.
The vibrant colours and textures of Betts’ abstractions pull the viewer into his dreamscapes that are animated with winding tunnels and punctuated with playful creatures and twinkling stars. The fluorescent striations and quick gestural impressions that immediately capture the viewer’s attention suggest both tangible and conceptual motion. The audience is invited to trace each step of Betts’ creative process while navigating the many layers of his compositions. If one looks long enough and allows oneself to become transfixed, these two-dimensional pieces can start to feel as though they extend infinitely beyond the picture plane. Each swath of colour has been thoughtfully applied; however, by affording these colours their own agency to drip downwards, Betts enters the realm of unpredictability, allowing the medium to cascade across the canvas. In losing himself entirely to the overwhelming ritualistic process Betts surrenders himself to the “psychological alchemy” of painting in which the artist acts as a prism emitting colourful rays of light.
There is a world of difference between looking and seeing. To look is to observe; to act as a passive witness. To see, however, is to actively engage with a visual experience. Everyone who encounters Honolulu Escapism is looking at the same images but each viewer has the opportunity to create their own psychological and emotional connections with what is before them. Although individual insights may be distinct, the utopic dreamscapes of Honolulu Escapism offer a shared experience of enchantment and fantasy, offering a place of collective respite from reality through ethereal renderings of familiar imagery.
Kathleen Buckley, 2020
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