Jim Phalen’s paintings most often present austere arrangements of simple objects laid on a white sheet or countertop. Phalen says, “I often use stark, confrontational compositional choices to make a point, while in other works I allow that process of seeing to take the lead, but in all I’m committed to the practice of painting from life. I paint what’s paintable. Many subjects are, for me, unpaintable. A flying bird, a swimming fish – anything in motion, even a smile - cannot be seen in the manner necessary for it to be painted perceptually.” Phalen’s paintings have no predetermined compositional plan, but rather like a collage in which the pieces form the whole they are about unrelated things that are forced together. The realism is undermined by the contrived placement of the objects, creating an uneasy alliance between the believable renderings and the highly ordered nature of their arrangement.
Phalen concludes, “The greatest works of art are the ones that embody the greatest number of contradictions. Contrast is needed to define things both visually and formally: light and dark, warm and cool, big and small, straight and curved. The principle of contrast applies as well to content: competing elements are vehicles for tension and complexity – in music, writing, or painting…through the process over time something truly revealing happens. Not only is a likeness achieved, but, almost by default, a deeper understanding. When I’m working, I’m able to clear my head and lose myself in the seeing. That’s the beauty of fit. It’s like the star you see only by looking away.”
Jim Phalen was born in 1957 in Phoenix, Arizona. He graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1980 and received his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 1986. His work has been shown in museums through out the county, including a solo show at the Frye Museum in Seattle, the Bellevue Art Museum in Bellevue, Washington and the Bowdoin College Art Museum in Brunswick, Maine. He is also a recipient of the prestigious Pollack-Krasner Foundation grant.