Modern Art

When sourcing a visual reference for a new painting, Joseph Yaeger seeks the concurrent sensation of attraction and disturbance, looking for an image that might be simultaneously jarring and enticing, with the artist driven by the subjective sensation that Roland Barthes memorably described as the punctum’ of an image. Although initially intuitive, once certain themes or patterns begin to emerge in his selection, he will then cull and hone images more deliberately. In terms of process, Yaeger applies watercolour on thickly gessoed canvas or linen, centring the materiality of the pockmarked and undulating gesso in addition to the vicissitudes of the watercolour pigment. His compositions range and vary, from charged encounters between unknown protagonists in elusive environments, to more prosaic representations of animals and commonplace objects.

Attracted to pushing the boundaries of legibility, his compositions are typically cropped, both revealing and curtailing the viewer’s encounter with the scene, fostering an atmosphere of emotional and spatial ambiguity. While Yaeger’s writing practice evokes these phantasmatic spaces, with his illusory characters often made flesh, his painting attempts to grasp what language cannot convey. He has remarked how the action of painting exists outside of his own self, seeing his body as a conduit for the translation of an image: The translation into paint I think of as a kind of projection – using my body as a projector, more specifically. I don’t sketch, nor do I use a projector, and I paint on the floor. The image, when everything is clicking, seems to emerge as if by magic out of the pooled paint. It’s genuinely quite mysterious to me – there is very little, if any, conscious or linguistic thought occurring in the act of painting.”

Joseph Yaeger b. 1986 Helena, Montana. Lives and works in London. Selected solo exhibitions include: Time Weft, The Perimeter, London, 2023; Just a Second, Antenna Space, Shanghai, 2022; Doublespeak, Project Native Informant, London, 2021; Power Ballads, VO Curations, London, 2020. Selected group shows include: Present Tense, Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, 2024; Accordion Fields, Lisson Gallery, London, 2024;Yuen-Yeung, K11, Shanghai, 2023; Sweet Days of Discipline, Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles, 2022; A Mimetic Theory of Desire, David Lewis, New York, 2022; My Reflection of You, The Perimeter, London, 2022; after image, Mamoth, London, 2020.