Upon first glance, it may not be apparent how Jana Ireijo and David James Valyou’s work relates to one another – Valyou, who dwells in the woods of Connecticut nearby Lyme Rock race track, is an every-medium man, assembling fat slices of cake from teddy bear carcasses and constructing intricately layered works evocative of old, peeling wallpaper – and Ireijo, a Hawaii-born painter now living by Long Island Sound some 77 miles from that race track, bears a collection of bright, surreal pieces charactered by various breeds of dogs, posh women, and teeth. But this spring, within the confines of The Mercurial Gallery in downtown Danbury, visitors will notice that these artists’ seemingly disparate bodies of work are neighbors, pulled from the same clime of reflection, dreams, and darkness.
Both Ireijo and Valyou are construction-oriented artists. Ireijo may revisit a painting again and again before deciding it finished, and Valyou often creates drawings of installations and sculptures before approaching the three-dimensional project.
“I paint from photographs to reinforce the feeling of detachment,” says Ireijo of her work. “Images are added and subtracted, reconsidered and painted back. Each new mark points the canvas in an entirely different direction. With it’s constant reworking, a painting can take years to complete. The result is dense and layered, with secrets and narratives that lurk beneath the outer façade.”
Ireijo’s paintings take the names of popular song titles, and in process, they echo the solitary hours Ireijo spent with sticker and scrapbook albums as a child. She says the animals who appear in her work are self-portraits that reveal obsessive ruminations on identity, memory, and desire.
In reference to his piece “Forever? Forever Ever……….,” which depicts a man who finds his misplaced head under the bed in a jumble of letters and punctuations derived from the question “Forever?”, Valyou explains how drawing and sketches function as a visual laboratory for future incarnations of a piece.
“This drawing is a study for a sculpture/installation piece called ‘don’t go losing your head/a domestic scene,’” he says. “I approach the visual aspect of the piece as an arrangement, nothing less complicated than that,” he says. “Because I work in such varied areas, it is often helpful to experiment with reductions of a concept than the whole of the subject. Here I chose to use less detail, relying on single forms to stack and orchestrate.”
Valyou goes on to explain the implications of the piece, how “losing one’s head” is a metaphor for “losing one’s cool”, and the letters and questions within the drawing represent the power, and fragility, of words.
“It is one moment where questions arise concerning our immortality, the question of infinity, our hopes, and dreams that seem to have no answer,” he says. “But the answer is written on the wall. His own words scattered on the floor, as if they were a breakable object. The question? Smashed to bits. Implying again, words do have weight that is measurable.”
Valyou’s breadth of skill and craft is apparent in his diverse repertoire: Other works include a heart-shaped bed of nails about the size of a text book – another preliminary model for a larger piece – arrangements of string and wood within muted mixed media paintings, an ornate pen and ink rendering of a dead scarecrow in a courtyard , and a tiny, white sculpture easily described by its name: “bones of a flower.”
Ireijo’s manifestations are also dichotomous, though often within one piece rather than across her body of work. Her paintings take the names of popular song titles, and in process, they echo the solitary hours Ireijo spent with sticker and scrapbook albums as a child. She says the animals who appear in her work are self-portraits that reveal obsessive ruminations on identity, memory, and desire.
“The creatures stare out from shallow fields on intense color. Fragmented images from magazines and comics both comfort and taunt them,” says Ireijo. “When the disparate images have been reconciled, I have created a world that is simultaneously buoyant and brutal,” says Ireijo. “The subjects, colors and textures combine to reveal an agitated, dreamlike state. The mystery has been deepened, yet it is the journey, as well as the conclusion, that has been embraced.”