What he does: A 2011 Hunting Art prize finalist, Jason Ransom is a painter with a dynamic style that throws the viewer into a frenzy of emotion. He is as much a painter as he is a sculptor -- using a palette knife and a brush to etch and carve his way through the thick layers of oil, he creates forms that leap off the canvas and into your physical space.
Sitting in the spotlit studio, surrounded by mysterious figures jumping from all directions, you begin to feel the power of the crude forms taking shape in the darkness.
"I want to express this really raw emotion," Ransom says. "Initially, it was about trying to find this image in a large amount of paint instead of going in with a set idea, to just move the paint around and find the image...if something didn't speak true to me I would just scrape it off and start over...leaving this ghost image on the canvas that gives you something to work from."
It's a constant search for an image that takes on a life of its own, what Bomberg called the "spirit in the mass," he says. "And it may not necessarily be completed, it just says exactly what I need it to say...it's about that initial emotional impact it makes, and if it does that for me, the painting is finished.
Gravitating from thick textures to a thinner paint in his newest work, he's allowing for more subtleties to tell the stories bound in the forms.
"I feel I can do more with it," Ransom said. "A lot of times you can hide behind the thick paint, but with the thinner, you're pretty much out there."
Why he likes it: Painting brings peace and purpose to life, Ransom says, but it isn't about self-therapy.
"It's about making paintings that people can personally relate to, that they relate to the emotions, and it helps me in return...having it on canvas in front of you makes things a bit easier to deal with than having everything inside."
"When you're trying to fill this internal stuff with a bunch of external things, a lot of external doing, it never really makes a dent...it's like pouring water into a bucket that doesn't have a bottom...and that's what I like about painting, it comes from the inside first, and then it's actualized on the canvas."
What inspires him: Wrestling with anxiety and depression for many years, Ransom sought help as he was overwhelmed by a sense of loss and confusion in his life. During this time, he first saw Vincent van Gogh's Portrait of Patience Escalier. Captivated by the use of texture and pigments, he was moved to study artists who evoked this same sentiment, looking further to the emotions flowing from the lines in the sculptures of Rodin. Ransom captures this emotive action in the movement, color and texture of his pantings.
Pictures of their work as well as those of Monticelli, Giacometti, Bernini, Sickert, and Rembrandt fill the space around him -- a constant reminder of the weight of their energy and ability to communicate through the medium.
"It tells me that I can't allow myself to settle for some type of mediocrity," Ransom says. "I would much rather destroy a good painting in hopes of a great painting, and my desire is to settle for nothing less...it constantly gives me something to strive towards."
The paintings are not some contrived idea, statement or gimmick, he says; the work is as much about the emotional resonance as it is about the insignificance of the subject and perfection of technique. The movement and the colors of the paint are what speak.
"The figures or the subject of the painting are sort of irrelevant to me -- I just use it as this kind of vehicle to express a certain emotion. I do try to keep things a bit ambiguous because when you're looking at it you don't know exactly what's going on, it just strikes a chord, and in that way it allows people to inject their own feelings into the painting and make up whatever kind of story they want."
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If not this, then what? "No. There's nothing," Ransom said. "I can't think of anything else that I would rather do. Without painting, I would be completely lost. Nothing fills the void like painting does."
What's next: A selection of Ransom's earlier and latest works will be featured in a solo exhibition on July 2 at the Cueto James Gallery in Houston.
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