San Francisco Chronicle interviews Ian Kimmerly about his current exhibition "Continuous Wave" at Dolby Chadwick

'Ian Kimmerly: Continuous Wave': Learning to engage the world intimately despite a flood of social media

June 2013

by Kimberly Chun

Distortions - whether caused by digitized blips, the bubbles of a hot spring or the fails of memory - have been a productive source of inquiry for S.F. artist Ian Kimmerly, whose solo show, "Continuous Wave," opens Thursday. His approach, a gestural hybrid of thickly layered abstraction and blurred-out photorealism, emerged from the most mundane of catch-up chores: transferring home videos from VHS and, gasp, Beta to DVD.

"There were all these blips in them, and I started making paintings of them and thinking of them as source material," he recalls. "That's how I got into thinking about technology and memory and how those videos altered my experience of how I remember my childhood. I realized I told my family and friends about things that happened only because I saw it on the tapes - I couldn't tell you what happened before and after."

Working at his Hunters Point Shipyard studio, Kimmerly sources images from old magazines for his latest series of paintings to look at more universal effects -say, "how it affects us and how we are from day to day."


Q:
 What does "Continuous Wave" reference?
A: The title I found reading a book on media studies - continuous wave is an early form of radio, and I thought it alluded to interconnection. The work in the show is from the past couple years, and the premise has been about coming to grips with the tension between the media world and our grounding, or lack thereof, to the natural world and whatever keeps you in touch with who you are. All these media interactions that we have to have - the constant social media and cell phones - in relation to what it is that roots us and connects us and allows us to have more intimate engagements than just fast back and forth.

I think in these paintings I'm talking about, how do we empathize with each other and engage with the world and with each other in meaningful ways?

Water Logic, 2012 | Oil and Acrylic on Canvas | 60 x 68 Inches
Water Logic, 2012 | Oil and Acrylic on Canvas | 60 x 68 Inches

Q: What was the initial image used for "Water Logic"?
A: I went through a bunch of old National Geographic magazines - I had a bunch of landscapes and a picture of this family in a hot spring, and something about the way the water was going over their bodies, there was already an otherness to it. I thought that would really say something about trying to have a relationship with these people. You can't quite do it.


Q:
 You're originally from the Midwest - what's it been like to live and paint here?
A: When I'm here, I almost feel conservative, and whenever I leave the Bay Area, I feel like a complete liberal quack! I think there's an embrace of newness and new ideas that's really refreshing and good for artists - if you can afford to be here somehow.

The Living Layer, 2013 | Oil and Acrylic on Canvas |  40 x 48 Inches
The Living Layer, 2013 | Oil and Acrylic on Canvas | 40 x 48 Inches

Ian Kimmerly: Continuous Wave: Through July 6. Reception 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday (June 13). Hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Dolby Chadwick Gallery, 210 Post St., Suite 205, S.F. (415) 956-3560. dolbychadwickgallery.com.

Kimberly Chun is a Berkeley writer. E-mail: 96hours@sfchronicle.com Twitter:@kimberlychun