The standards of the viewer...

By Benjamin Stark

The Dimensions of AmbiguityBut the light deceives...

The world of youth, riches and the beauty, seem to be the central focus in the creative argument of the American painter Terry Rodgers. His scenes capture the deep longing for the dream world, for the chance to be lucky - or do they rather reflect perhaps a longing for internal satisfaction?

Western civilization has become accustomed to a level of perfection. We are daily inundated with ads to make skin look younger, our hair colour "in". We have the makes of cars that suggest absolute freedom. And both men and women become objects of desire.

The market machinery works at full tilt. Talent competitions, as they used to be referred to, mutate to " the search for the superstar" - a journey on the elevator of fame, the promise is, with no intermediate stops, it's zero to the infinite spheres of absolute wealth. Today the foreign exchange and appropriate appearances and behaviour together with a modicum of skill compensate for the lack of talent, the non-existent expressive strength, the missing professionalism, and the ability and strength to carry on - from which those "stars" are actually created.

Media advisors know which appearances, gestures, and rhetoric move the public, or more accurately the customers, to obtain their desired and planned reactions. Marketing strategists use public opinion polls, credit card and buying information, and manipulation by global, virtual communication and information networks to provide invented products for missing self-assurance. Everyone has access to it, from the comfort of their armchair, dream fulfilment by remote control and mouse-clicks!

That which doesn't work is made suitable. Cosmetic operations performed without scruples, the promise of riches and personal gain, success and emotional satisfaction. Many seem to be turning to the lottery for fast profits. Grabbing the phone or logging in on the internet for emotional satisfaction is already unfulfilling but the telephone companies and the internet providers love the business.

One would like to see only happy, content faces. But the frustration of the realization of not having a fabulous car, magnificent lips, a winning lotto ticket results only in disappointment - no trace of satisfaction. Much promised, little returned. Confused, disappointed, and destroyed souls remain.

This is exactly where the American artist Terry Rodgers picks up - confronting and arguing with the standards of the viewer. In his newest large oil paintings, the world of the beautiful people forces us to confront our longings and to think about how our societal moral conceptions fit with our apparent reality. And the viewers all react differently.

On the one hand, the immaculate young bodies in their nakedness found in the photo-realistically realized works of Terry Rodgers, and on the hand the viewer can see they are punished by neglect and longing. They believe they have found the answer to their longing, their dream, a signpost in a confusing word.

If one looks beneath the surface of the first impression, a droll scene reveals itself. Despite all the youth and perfection, despite unrestrained nakedness and, all the abundance in a Terry Rodgers painting, we see only the sadness from unfulfilled longing - a search for true happiness, a search for honest feelings, and a search for a sense of life.

Terry Rodgers' scenes confront us with skilfully composed metaphors questioning the dominant society's standards and opinions. On one hand, his figures appear as fantasy and on the other, as carefully observed human beings. The eyes, head, or gesture create a context to examine. Terry Rodgers' technical perfection allows us to experience the illusion. Each figure, each view, the multiple perspectives and overlapping bodies stand as symbols of unfulfilled desires, longings and expectations.

Terry Rodgers' figures carry a deep-rooted suffering within. Different from the terrifying visions in the large work of the English painter, Francis Bacon, which mercilessly visualized the fears of his subjects with as if bashing the canvas with a club, Terry Rodgers requires a profound processing and examination of today's existing standards - in the end, a request for personal investigation with us.

Actually we all seem to emit our own light, and as a society seem to be content with our policies and personal surroundings. But sometimes the light deceives…

Benjamin Stark, August 2005

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