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David Ambrose     Bio   Statement                Messenger
David Ambrose
David Ambrose's lace and crochet paintings are an idiosyncratic, provocative compound of the visual, the tactile and even the olfactive, steeped in oil paint as they are and redolent with its smell. As well, their filagreed, ornamental surfaces seem to exhale the slightly musty antiquarian odor of churches, provincial museums and old houses filled with hand crafted objects accumulated through generations. The two smells are discrete, literal in one instance, metaphoric in the other, a subtle dialectic that intertwines the nostalgic with the objectified and recontextualized, the imagined smell of the past embedded in the smell of the newly made, adding bouquet to the abrupt, highcontrast chiaroscuro, the densely textured paint. Ambrose begins with an image of a medieval or renaissance church or cathedral which often come from old architectural photographs and floor plans; in this series, the titles refer to the Gothic cathedrals of Amiens, Troyes, Soissons, Laon. He says he likes the way they look and because he is a painter, he finds a way to paint them. Using the architecture as a base, he arranges and sews together crochet doilies and antimacassars, lace tablecloths and sometimes tiered circle skirts to reproduce the chosen structure. He dips this moderately scaled support of intricately patterned, dainty fabrics in gesso again and again to stiffen it. Reinforced, it is then stretched and painted over, the paint caught and crusted on the open weave rosettes of the netting like the centuries of grime and soot that shade perforated stone portals or rose and lancet windows. The skill of medieval stone masons made stone look like lace while Ambrose makes lace look like stone, playing with various notions of trompe l'oeil. As in many late 20th century considerations of illusion and reality, things may not be what they seem or, twisting these considerations, they may be exactly what they seem, as definitions become more and more contingent.
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