“My work is a way of meditation; of slowing down time through the careful observation of overlooked slices of my environment.”
By: Harriet Levenston
Raw, poignant and profoundly honest, David Jon Kassan’s work aesthetically captures humanity in its true form. As an artist, Kassan acts as an empathetic intermediary between the subject he portrays and the viewer. More than simply replicating his subjects Kassan seeks to understand them. He seeks to capture the essence of those he paints, imbuing them with their own voice. They communicate with the viewer interpersonally and we see them through our own eyes. Our gaze transcends the picture plane and permeates deep into the subject’s psyche. We are moved by Kassan’s depictions, captivated by powerfully expressive hands, pensive faces, and flesh that appears warm to touch. Kassan’s portraits pulsate with the lives of his sitters – the weighty streams-of-consciousness of past experiences, feeling and introspection.
This is what reality means to Kassan – preserving the realness of nuanced emotion and expression emanating from the people he paints. Kassan’s technical mastery of oil paint combined with adept draftsmanship enables him to fluently represent what he sees. This is evident in the stunning flesh tones Kassan achieves. Transparent layers of oil paint are built up, forming an intricate lattice of veins, blood and skin. Through this light enters and is reflected back, infusing the subject with veridical luminosity. We can also sense movement and life beneath the undulating creases and folds of clothing. It is the artist’s intent to control the medium of oil paint so that it is not part of the viewer to subject equation. Kassan facilitates an interface between subject and viewer with which he is conscious not to interfere. The technical aspect of his work is thus a means to an end; an end rooted in the viewer’s experience.
We find inherent contradictions in Kassan’s work as it oscillates between representation and transformation, reality and abstraction. We see this in his backgrounds, which are graphic and fragmentary, yet at the same time highly refined ‘trompe-l’oeil’ texture studies reminiscent of the work of Franz Kline and Robert Rauschenberg. Weathered, graffiti-marked walls, dissected by peeling paint and torn down posters, serve as descriptive patinas. Like the figures before them, these surfaces import a sense of history, wherein the past, present and future culminate. Time is an unbroken continuum of experience, change, growth and decay, and both subject and background are visceral embodiments of this process. Kassan’s inclusion of flayed urban exteriors in his paintings invites the viewer to appreciate that which is typically overlooked and deemed mundane.
Ultimately, there is a truth and timelessness to Kassan’s work because it is so deeply human. His subjects are distilled in an exact moment in time, patiently contemplating their present. We share in this present-moment appreciation, this slowing down of time, and see life for what it is.