In his latest exhibition, “Panic and Purpose” featured at Red Arrow Gallery until March 30, John Paul Kesling has assembled a series of works that rethink the familiar. Through harshly bright pastels, abstracted figures and convoluted scenery, he has rendered images that may be recognizable but still raise unsettling questions.
“Music, foggy memories, a new tube of paint, conversations, a comedy podcast, politics — they are all image-making materials,” Kesling said, according to a statement provided by the gallery. “I use these as fuel and interpret them into a personal lexicon of imagery, symbols and mark-making techniques. Through visual narration, I paint fluid ideas that try to answer questions about living but usually end in the creation of new questions.”
In Jen and Reba, an acrylic and pastel piece in the show, Kesling presents two figures entwined together in repose. The simplicity of their outlines and lack of detail in their expressions gives them a serene — if not uncanny — presence while the layering of their bodies and bright coloring gives the scene dynamism.
“In Jen and Reba, two friends, completely comfortable sharing a space, rest together in a midday nap,” Kesling explained. “Tangled like headphone wires but without the frustration, the figures, shapes and colors dance in the silence of the moment.”
Kesling is originally from Kentucky and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Morehead State University. He went on to obtain his Master of Fine Arts degree with a focus in painting from The Savannah College of Art and Design. He lived and practiced in New York City before moving to Madison in 2016.
Red Arrow Gallery is located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4, in East Nashville.