David French’s art is best described by the word “abstraction.” But French isn’t just creating abstract pieces, he is using them to question the relevancy of the genre itself. Perhaps a better word to describe French’s style is “contradictory.”
As an artist living in Asbury Park with his 10-year-old daughter, French uses everything from video, to paint, to sculpture to create work that questions the artistic principles he works with everyday.
French received his formal training at Carnegie Mellon University. Outside of the classroom, he studied under Sam Gilliam, another abstract artist.
“[Sam] showed me ways to express my self using aesthetics and theoretical ideas,” French said. Gilliam continues to inspire French.
In 1990, French had his first solo art show in Chicago, which featured large oil paintings and sculptures. But he felt out of place in the Chicago art scene, where he says abstraction was simply “not in.” French eventually returned to the east coast to work in construction, and returned to painting in 2000 after completing cancer treatment. He is currently getting his masters from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Since returning to art, French has focused on “repositioning his pieces.”
“It starts with a question,” he says. “Recently, it’s ‘is abstraction relevant?’”
French is working on pieces that answer this question. He also finds inspiration in sensual pleasures like food, cooking, and the joy in his daughter’s eyes.
“Most of my work comes out of the pleasure I have painting in the studio,” he says. “The color of the brush stroke, the weave in the canvas. It’s the same process I have in tasting food, making love, watching a sunrise.”
His current work explores these pleasures and also restrains them. He describes these contradictions as “self cancelling” or “collapsed.” “I’m trying to find interesting ways to make paintings that are sincere and also cynical. They are purposely self cancelling,” he says.
French works in his studio in Colts Neck. Once he has prepared the canvas, a piece can be completed in one or two sessions. After finishing a piece, though, he does not return to it.
“The work becomes a record of that moment, that time I’m in,” he says. “Once you go back into it, the record of the event is now lost.”