The concept of self-obsession is a theme that permeates our modern culture more intensely now than ever. Artists Ben Jones and Chelsey Pettyjohn seek to explore this fixation through day-to-day observations of the self as well as reflections on personal history as it shapes perceptions of the present.
The idea is a circular dilemma: in order to grasp a sense of awareness, you have no choice but to seek control of the 'self', as it is impossible to separate from. This presents an inescapable loop in which you are forever absorbed, because there can be no outside perspective on the innermost workings of the mind. Faced with this predicament, you are essentially 'catching a tiger by its tail' - the ultimate impasse. To relinquish hold of the 'self' in order to observe is to become helplessly vulnerable; to remain tightly gripped is to become your own blind spot.
The task is not handled too preciously; Jones and Pettyjohn aim for a lighter approach that allows room for playfulness, humor, and raw association. Both artists align with the concept from quite literal opposite sides of the ocean, with Jones based in Melbourne and Pettyjohn residing in New York. As a figurative term, the sea is traditionally symbolic of the emotional 'self' in literature, religion, and dreams - a vast representation of the soul. Sea kelp, which dominates the shallow waters, also has connotations beyond the physical: kelp is used in Chinese slang to describe a transient, or a person wandering without direction. The word for kelp, "pinyin", is literally translated to "sea waiting."
Drifting through the depths of the 'self', Jones and Pettyjohn present a series of paintings that seek to illuminate the preoccupation the mind can have on its own psyche.