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With Narcissistic Shell #3, Sydney Cash joins the small group of artists whose work has appeared on the cover of Chronogram multiple times. (Cash’s light sculpture, Target, appeared on the July 2005 cover.) The “Narcissistic Shell” series of paintings is quite a departure from Cash’s usual sculptural work, but he maintains that he is, at all time working as a sculptor rather than a painter. “I think of my work as sculptor’s paintings.” Cash says. “I make paintings, I don’t paint them.”

The new series was inspired by a 10-day retreat Cash took this summer as part of his ongoing work with the Ridhwan School, a personal development approach based on the teachings of A.H. Almaas. The narcissistic shell is a reference to the false self we create to interface with the world, which Almaas’s approach is an attempt to transcend with increased self-awareness. Cash’s paintings from this series are his documentation of his visceral experience of the shell. While working, Cash sometimes encountered emotional turbulence. “Often there was pain and shame and sometimes, surprising creative fluidity,” says Cash. “But through it all, I notice more permission and less of my usual critical judgement.”

To achieve the flowing style of the paintings, Cash used a plastic bag with the corner cut off—like a pastry chef would use to ice a cake—to flow the paint. “One of things that interested in this style of painting is the quality of engagement with controlling the paint,” says Cash. “I enjoy the challenge of not being fully in control of the outcome, the immediacy of working with the form, the possibility for inventiveness and exploration.” Cash likens it to Japanese brush painting.

After the white paint, applied to the black paper, is dry, Cash then adds black paint to the lines of white to create the braid-like elements. Then, says Cash, “there’s time to contemplatively weave and animate the form after the intuitive flowing of the paint is finished. Cash namechecks two paradoxical influences in this regard: M.C. Escher and Jackson Pollack.

“New Paintings on Paper,” will be exhibited at Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon from December 7 through December 28. An opening reception, part of Beacon’s Second Saturday art events, will be held at Van Brunt on December 12 from 6-9pm (www.vanbruntgallery.com). Cash’s paintings will also be shown as part of a group show at the Bridge Gallery in Manhattan in January

(www.bridgegalleryny.com). Cash lives and works in the Ulster County town of Marlboro (www.sydneycash.com).

click to enlarge Narcissistic Shell #3, oil on paper, 35” x 23”, 2008-09
  • Narcissistic Shell #3, oil on paper, 35” x 23”, 2008-09

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