Ward Shelley
Timeline painting/drawings
Oil paint and toner on frosted mylar

Below are two brief discussions: "Shape of Understanding" describes what I am thinking about and "Notes on Production" describes the materials and process.

Shape of Understanding

My paintings/drawings are attempts to use real information to depict our understandings of how things evolve and relate to one another, and how this develops over time. More to the point, they are about how we form these understandings in our minds and if they can have, in our culture, some kind of shape.
Usually I choose topics from art or cultural history, such as the arc of an artist's career and its influences, or the effect of particular ideas in an aesthetic or political movement. They are "wide-screen", with all information available to the interacting eye at every moment.

In a sense, once the topic of a painting is chosen, the content is "determined". It is history, a matter of record. But we know this content is mediated in a thousand ways before it takes shape in our awareness. Moreover, content is also shaped by the receiving mind which, as a pre-existing form itself, exerts a strong shaping influence (contemporary studies of cognitive dissonance are describing this effect). It is the mutually formative effects of subject/mind and object/world that gives shape to the space that exists between them.
These paintings are a record of this shaping process. They are about the struggle of form to express content in the cognitive space that exists between the Subject (us) and the Object (the world). If that cognitive space is a territory, these paintings are landscapes of that territory.

Notes on production and versions:

These paintings are oil paint with a special alkyd binder and toner on frosted mylar. I chose to work with oil paint because of the deep radiant transparency of the colors when used as glazes, which enhances and not obscures the texts. Mylar was chosen as the ideal surface because it is archival, because its smooth surface allows for fine detail, and because it allows the light to penetrate and bounce through the color.

These works are full of compact information. It takes months to collect and organize the information on a page; it is done with pencil on paper because each piece goes through constant revisions during this time.

At a certain stage the work is transferred to mylar. This enables me to use other photographic techniques on the piece, and begin to make a permanent version with oils. From this point on, each version is unique.

Three versions of the painting are made from same information. Normally the pencil drawing goes through minor changes from version to version, and the painting is entirely different, using different colors and brushwork.

More information about Ward Shelley and other artworks is on the web:


Ward Shelley
510 E 23 Street, 11-G
New York, NY 10010
917 693-2917 cell