by Trenton Doyle Hancock
In 2014, after about six years of making what I call “psychological self-portraits,” I began experimenting with animation. They were very short and simple, and felt like an interesting way to push the self-portraits I had been focused on into an increasingly larger narrative. At the same time, I began work on a short live-action film called What the Bringback Brought, with the short animations feeding the narrative and building scenes. The narrative of this film involves me—the artist—being kidnapped by furry, striped, mutated brutes called Bringbacks, who force me to be a performer in a psychological theater. After several rituals are played out on-screen, I go through molting phases, one of which is called the “Bringling” phase. I am ultimately transformed into a furry Bringback, with the role of producing toys related to the Moundverse and Mind of the Mound (name given to the Trenton Doyle Hancockian meta-reality).
Several of my recent works closely mirror key scenes from the film, such as the small grisaille paintings The Letting, Concerto, and Head Tread, and have a distinct filmic quality. Another trio of paintings, 8-Back Icon Series: Torpedoboy, 8-Back Icon Series: Bringback, and 8-Back Icon Series: Trenton Doyle Hancock, serve as models of toys that I must produce, an outcome of my transformation to a Bringback, and nod to my love of toys and packaging of toys made in the 1970s and 1980s.
These and other paintings are united by a shared grid pattern that had haunted the film and that has now become entwined with the paintings. The pattern itself comes from the linoleum quatrefoil floor tiling in my grandmother’s house and the many memories I have of lying on that floor trying to impress my grandmother with the drawings I was making. It seems the pattern has grown to become an integral structuring element in my recent works, and it simultaneously serves as a barrier, grid, compartmental device, and familial foundation. Since I see my process as additive and do not “retire” any imagery, grids have become an important frame to shape an ever increasing cast of images and icons that inhabit my world.
In the past, grids have taken many forms: a system of veins, tree branches, arms, hands, legs, floral arrangements, and even text. They help shape and organize my subjects into bite-sized chunks that accumulate and swirl into increasingly larger narrative fields. Currently, the quatrefoil pattern is pervasive in my paintings, and it serves as a multivalent formal tool that stitches together the growing collection of images and icons that circulate throughout my paintings.
Houston-based visual artist Trenton Doyle Hancock is the Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in spring 2017. Published in the Berlin Journal 30, Fall 2016, pp. 20-25.