Oliver Jeffers: For All We Know
Bryce Wolkowitz is pleased to present For All We Know, a new body of oil paintings by Oliver Jeffers that will inaugurate his first solo exhibition in New York.
This series of paintings illuminate a dream-like nocturnal world populated by astronauts, deep-sea divers, sinking ships, floating pianos, and burning matches. Omnipresent throughout are the night sky and the ocean - the two great and unknown frontiers - glittered with the imaginary lines that create constellations, serving in this case as a mysterious key to unlock our world.
Expanding on years of observation, from the history of his upbringing in Belfast, to contemporary New York City, Jeffers' evokes the precarious state of our home and its inhabitants. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller's seminal book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, he presents pianos as dubious flotation devices and our planet presented as a cumbersome motor vehicle, overheating as we argue over what to play on the radio. From researching astronaut's descriptions of looking at Earth from the distance of the Moon, Jeffers noticed certain recognizable patterns to the way in which he discussed the politics of his hometown from a vantage point of across the Atlantic Ocean. In finding that few people outside of Northern Ireland knew or cared of the intricate conflict there, a great waste of time was revealed: a divided population identical to each other in every way save for the flags they flew and the stories they told. Tragically, each side's identity are still firmly rooted to the existence of the other, and therefore locked into a spiral of repeated patterns.
Jeffers' work follows the logic of dreams, of symbolic objects coming into relation with each other, and of the feelings that these objects hold. At the center are the themes of perspective and connectedness: the Earth as seen from the Moon, the stars as they appear from the face of the Earth, our minuscule presence in the greater universe, and how we relate to it all. The existential loneliness of the astronaut in Lost At Space, or of the deep-sea diver peering through his helmet in The Rescue, is portrayed in sensuous twilight shades. These recurring characters are seen together in A Break with the Unknown, sharing a cup of tea that neither can drink, watching the same bonfire reflected in their masks but seeing different things. Throughout this new collection, Jeffers looks at how humankind has always attempted to make sense out of chaos, has always made connections between himself and everything else. These connections, both real and imagined, suggest we are no more than the stories we tell, and the stories we are told. Stories that are brightly vivid, but all too brief.
Jeffers is a master of artistic materials and a storyteller at heart, as seen in his unique use of found items and linguistic interventions, reinvigorating new life to common items and landscapes. His own distinct hand tells us: this is to be read as parable, this is what it feels like to press one's self up against infinity, like holding a burning match against the vast darkness of outer space. This is not only what it feels to be alive, but this is the history of our species, our planet, our moon and our sun: something which burns brightly for a shred of a second, but which, like the long-dead stars shining against the night sky, will project itself outward into the nothing, which surely, must mean something.
Oliver Jeffers' critically acclaimed picture books have been translated into more than forty languages, as well as earning No.1 on the New York Times bestsellers list on multiple occasions. His sixteenth book as author and illustrator, Here We Are, launched in November 2017. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a BAFTA for the animated short film of his book Lost and Found, Time Magazine Children's Book of the Year, The New York Times Best Illustrated Books, the Nestle Award, Bologna Ragazzi Award, The Orbil Prize, The Irish Book of the Year, The British Book Design Award, and The Blue Peter Book of the Year. His paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally, including the Brooklyn Museum, the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and the Palais Auersperg in Vienna. He has collaborated with numerous artists, including Sam Winston, JR, and U2 - with whom he created several music videos and assisted in the art direction of their global tour, Songs of Innocence, in 2016.
Oliver Jeffers grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
@oliverjeffers: "For All We Know" at @brycewolkowitz (505 W 24th St) through 2/16/2019