Ralph Pugay makes paintings that trade in archetypes, uncomfortable humor, and weird space. Many of his colorful, folksy paintings hit with the force of a punchline, but without the clean resolution of a good zinger. There are internal contradictions the viewer must navigate, which sharpens one's own sense of nuance in the world.
No Longer Withholding, from Pugay’s recent exhibit A Spiritual Guide to Brute Force, features a cluster of tiny cherubs escaping from the open chest cavity of someone on the operating table. The scene is seen from above and the space is collapsed until nearly flat. The escaping cherubs might be read as the love and levity trapped in each of us, but which we mostly withhold.
In Easy Training Day there is a group of cat burglars navigating a hedge maze in the dark. The hedges appear more like a geometric symbol than a traditional rendering of hedges receding towards a horizon. In a recent interview Ralph said, "I'm really interested in spatial conventions like linear perspective and isometric projection. . . and using those conventions intuitively." He claims linear perspective can often feel like a robotic way of describing the world and says that, "The way I think about space is much more complicated than that."
In Ayahuasca Report, an animated gif, there are four newscasters mouthing mutely while fractal patterns, mandalas, and pseudo-spiritual images cycle banally behind them. The absurdity of a cable news segment about a wild hallucinogen trip highlights the untranslatability of all experience. Still, there's something endearing about 4 newscasters trying diligently to, presumably, share the secrets of life and the universe.
Currently Ralph is busy producing a socially engaged project called Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters Symposium, happening in Portland on February 23rd.