David Cunningham
David Cunningham

Artist Statement

The creative process involved in painting is a spiritual practice for me that engages my mind, body, and spirit in a deep and challenging way. The complexity of painting fully captivates me, taking me into another dimension free from the confines of time, fear, and distractions. I can describe this experience as nothing less than divine. In addition, I see painting as a process of self-discovery. Upon contemplation of the finished piece, I find that the work reflects my personality, my thoughts (conscious and unconscious), and my vision of the world around me. In this way, painting provides me with valuable insights into my psyche.

The process of painting has been one in which thematic ideas remain vague and planted in my head often for months or years before anything happens. I begin my work by arranging and rearranging personal objects that I have collected throughout my life. I look for alignments and connections of shapes, color, and content. In addition to moving and shifting objects, I work with different lighting in an attempt to find that magic moment that excites me. This process can take days or hours, but I try never to start something until it has that spark of vitality that moves the still life into the metaphysical realm. At first, the painting process is loose and fast. As I work, the painting takes over and begins dictating my next move. Objects start to lock into place and the painting slows down until often I am spending days on one small section. Nearing completion, I am always amazed when I start to see new thematic symbols and connections I had never consciously intended. It is in this process that I see a higher order at work in me.

In this current body of work, I was inspired by the stone paintings of Alan Magee. His large scale paintings resonated with my own aesthetic by the way the muted colors harmonize so beautifully. In addition, there was something very primal and eternal about the work that I found compelling. If that was not enough, I related to the subject matter of stones from my own personal history. I had spent hours as a boy collecting rocks finding amazement in the variety of textures and colors. I have watched all of my children play with the stones in our flower garden with the same joy. Then one day I took my daughter to a special creek near our home to throw stones in the water. I brought my camera intending to capture a few moments of her childhood. It wasn’t long until I was looking at the rocks on the creek bank and began photographing them. Two of the large paintings came from photographs taken that day. And since then I have been collecting stones again, exploring combinations of shapes, sizes and colors. The possibilities seem endless. The finished paintings have a life of their own. They are meditative, calming yet intense, spiritual and yet decorative, ordered yet casual, volumetric and flat.

To me, Art (yes that is Art with a big “A”) is about seeing the beauty that is often overlooked and reminding the world that it exists. This is in essence enlightenment, or waking up. The process of painting is that for me: a lengthy exploration which reveals the beauty of the overlooked both in me and in what I am painting.