Local artist paints his way into global exhibit

(Rigo Moran)

Shane Guffogg takes part in the prestigious art event “La Biennale di Venezia” during the spring of 2024 in Venice, Italy

STRATHMORE – All eyes are soon to land on the art of Shane Guffogg, a Strathmore/Lindsay native who was chosen to have his work displayed in an international art exhibition in Italy.

Artist Shane Guffogg will have his art shown in Venice, Italy this spring at one of the biggest art events on the globe. Guffogg prepared 21 new pieces for the series that will be shown at the historic Scala Contarini del Bovolo, which is on the official list of spaces for the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2024.

The 21 oil paintings are pieces that conceptually show the passage of time through the art process of multiple layers and strokes of paint on a canvas.

“It’s the most important event in the art world; so the entire art world, all over the world, people descend on Venice for this event,” Guffogg said. “It will certainly be the most important exhibition of my career thus far. It puts me on the world stage in a way that I haven’t been yet.”

Guffogg is a well-established artist who grew up in the Strathmore/Lindsay area before eventually getting a studio in Los Angeles to continue his art career. It was back in March before the theme of the event this year was announced that he started looking for the right space to show his work, and found it at the Venice Biennale.

The Venice Biennale is an annual international prestigious art and cultural event. The pieces Guffog is showing took him six months to complete. In order to officially show work at the Biennale, artists need to turn in a curatorial statement explaining their work and how it relates to the event’s theme, along with images of the work, architectural renderings of the space and a letter of support from another established museum presenting the artist to the committee.

The theme for the event this year is “Migration,” which all the artists need to incorporate into their work to be approved by the Biennale committee. Guffogg explained that the curator of the event chose this theme to get artists from other countries, of which frequently deal with the circumstance of immigration, to make art about the socioeconomic and political issues that influence migration in their society.

“I don’t want to make my art a political statement,” Guffogg said. “So what I decided to do was to tap into a poem by T.S. Eliot called ‘Four Quartets’,” Guffogg said.

“Four Quartets” is a set of four poems by Eliot that were published over a six-year period. According to biographies on the series of poems, the pieces are four interlinked meditations, with their common theme depicting man’s relationship with time, the universe and the divine.

According to Guffogg, he incorporated the theme of migration into his work through exploring visual representations of the passing of space and time. His curatorial statement explains that the large-scale painting explores the “intersection of time and space, consciousness and transcendence, with the concept of movement, escape and migration”

Guffogg states that T.S. Eliot’s writing was often based on ancient Christian ideologies and that the “transitory nature” of those messages shows a migration to places that are “not only geographical and geopolitical, but social, temporal and contextual, ex-terras outside the earth.”

For eight of Guffogg’s paintings found in the first room, the pieces are based on a part of one of the poems that reads “…reach. Into the silence… at the still point of the turning world.” These art pieces are made up of thousands of thin lines that show the movement of Guffogg’s hand. The lines are meant to be a documentation of Guffogg’s actions and presence condensed into a singular moment.

The second room in the space has 12 paintings in it named after a part of the “Four Quartets” that says “Neither flesh nor fleshless…,” in which he uses colors like blood red and bone ivory to be reminiscent of the human body. Similar to the other paintings, he makes lines on the canvas to show the passage of time but then he revisits the lines and adds a light source to make them look like three-dimensional forms. This is meant to make lines that were made subconsciously abstract into a more realistic form.

Guffog noted that one of his paintings is made to be interactive with the permanent painting it has hung behind it. The painting, “Paradise” by Sala Tintoretto, is bolted to the wall of the building. For this piece, Guffogg said he has a structure he will use to hang his painting in front of the Tintoretto painting.

Once the painting is hung, he will then have an app with a custom augmented reality that will allow viewers to point the phone at Guffogg’s painting and watch some of the colors leave the image, showing the Tintoretto painting behind it. This will allow viewers to see his painting made recently, collaborating with the Tintoretto painting made in 1588.

“In a Biblical sense, paradise means it’s the absence of time, because you’re in paradise, and paradise is eternal,” Guffogg said. ”Now (with this), a painting that is 500 years old comes through my painting; so now we’re viewing 500 years condensed into a singular moment.”

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