Nature is a beautiful, chaotic paradox: it can seem to be a sprawling, tangled mess at the same time that it appears incredibly ordered. We are subject to its laws, and we humans follow the same exact cycle as everything else: birth, life, and death. And of course we are social creatures who react to these events in a wide variety of ways through cultural and emotional channels. Artist Kyle Kogut pursues the chaotic, confusing and often beautiful aspects of being in the world, exploring relationships and conflicts between nature and his own experiences. He writes:
My work is rooted in the actuality of nature, while allowing my own perception to skew, warp, and manipulate it in an attempt to connect these natural, physical and metaphysical realms.
Kogut culls memories, personal symbols and philosophies from his own experience and incorporates them into works that often reference mythology and art historical sources. Stylized natural elements like flowers or potted plants provide backgrounds that become almost patterned, and symbolic in their placement. 'Seizer,' one of my favorite works, appears menacing and yet strangely reassuring, as I'm reminded upon closer examination that death is but a part of nature and in due course all will return to the ground. 'View from My Own Casket' is a powerful meditation on the dark fantasy of attending one's own funeral, or worse, being buried alive, and yet it is surprisingly, abstractly charming: gentle ferns sprout from the edges and the colors are light and it feels airy. Perhaps after all, death does not mean darkness but a different kind of lightness.
The artist's ability to meet and show us the face of death head on, as it were, allows him (and us) to confront mortality sincerely. His work has examined the concept of life and death as a part of nature's process, and he has more recently begun to move in a direction that focuses more clearly on death and its significance in his own life as well as historically, philosophically, and culturally:
Prompted by a death of a family member, my recent works have served as a platform to scrutinize my own mortality and reflect on how different societies ritualize death. Connecting the subject matter of fleeting life and inevitable death, the result is a natural interplay of these cyclical themes.
By experimenting and layering the wide variety of materials, often including different kinds of paint, pencils and washes, he lets the drawings and paintings progress naturally. He calls the process of layering 'mark-making,' which brings to mind primitive forms of language or ceremony, or prehistoric cave drawings in which the artists responded to what they observed in the world around them--very much as he does now. He taps into his background in printmaking, which comes through in the compositions' clarity and frankness.
Kyle Kogut is currently based in Philadelphia, PA where he earned his BFA from the Tyler School of Art, and in the fall of this year he will be commencing the MFA program at the Mount Royal School of Art at Maryland Institute College of Art.