Tim Donald Webster
My work sits between landscape, architecture, and abstract painting, utilizing tropes of each to point to the failures of representation and abstraction in expressing the philosophical concept of the sublime, a great fear brought on by privation, obscurity, and vastness. While German, English, and American painters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries depicted the sublime in nature, New York artists in the mid-twentieth century like Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Adolph Gottlieb attempted an abstract, "transcendental" sublime. I question the role of painting in exploring these ideas, for painting cannot represent, nor provide, a sublime experience. It is rare for one to be confronted with these conditions in his or her life, let alone through painting. The sublime has not left the collective conscious of past centuries, becoming a standard subject for romantics in the arts. My paintings are stand-ins for the idea of the sublime rather than trying to be sublime. The decision to reexamine this subject through art fulfills my paradoxical desire to address tragic modern conditions with optimism. My work implements signs of the sublime with great love for the subject while remaining critical. What I hope the viewer will get from my work is an understanding of my conflicting relationship with the sublime, which, by extension, he or she will relate to a shared, contemporary experience of persistent anxiety in conjunction with an awareness of humankind’s capacity for change.