What if, way back in the primal moments,
we had a twin who perhaps never made it much past the cellular stage.
Might we have very early memories of this other half?
Geoff Laurence wondered about that when he read hat, according to findings
using sonar, one of every eight people begins life in the womb as a
twin, while only one in 90 is born as a twin.
The concept kept spinning in his mind. It wove itself into other
absorbing thoughts about identity and the multiple sides of the
self that exist within each individual.
A figurative painter who always works from models, Laurence found
himself even more intrigued with these ideas when he began using
the same model twice in one painting. When the model changed positions,
the artist seemed to be seeing a second distinct personality almost
as if Laurence were observing the model's twin.
Another thing he noticed: Sometimes when he put these "twins" on
canvas beside each other, aspects of their personalities appear to
shift back and forth between the two figures. In Ace in the Hole,
two men look at each other over a game of cards. Dressed in a rumpled
shirt and tie, one appears worldweary and slightly older. The other
man ‑ painted from the same model ‑wears a sweatshirt and tennis
shoes and has an edge of youthful rebellion.
"When I look at them, one minute he looks worried and be looks
confident, and the next minute it's the other way around," Laurence
said, pointing to the figures in a large painting leaning against
a wall in his Galisteo studio. "One has three aces and the other
has the possibility of a flush. It's a great moment that any card
player would know. Neither knows what card the other has. They'll
permanently be in that state of not knowing for the rest of their
Ace in the Hole is among the thought‑provoking and meticulously rendered
paintings on view in an exhibition of Laurence's recent work at Fred
R. Kline & Company, upstairs at 129W San Francisco.
The show opens with an artist's reception from 5 to 7 p.m. today,
Dec. 5, and continues through January 1998.
Laurence, whose father worked for 3M, grew up in England, the Bahamas
and France. Later he lived and exhibited in London for 25 years,
then spent three years in New York City studying at the New York
Academy of Art before coming to New Mexico a year and a half ago.
Ironically, when he left New York for the relative isolation of the
village of Galisteo, the artist found his work becoming less pre-
occupied with himself and more inclined to touch on universal issues.
In Shifra, Shifra, for example, Laurence uses the double model to
explore the complexity of apparently conflicting yet coexisting attitudes
often held by survivors of the Holocaust and other experiences of
mass suffering and death. One side of the self may be stoical and
accepting, while the other is triumphant and feeling able to overcome.
In the case of genocide, Laurence said, the issues reach beyond any
single race when one questions the psychological processes involved
in carrying out orders to torture or kill ‑processes potentially
available to everyone.
"On a very basic level, I paint about feeling ‑ making people
feel something even if they don't know what it is," Laurence
said"On a second level, I'm trying to analyze what I feel and
if I get that right, hopefully I'll touch on something we all feel."
Several of Laurence's recent paintings involve the theme of healing,
including the healing he sees being called for in himself and many
men today, between the male and female aspects of the sell Union
is an image of a muscular man ‑not a transvestite ‑ sifting comfortably
and at ease in a dress.
Another work in the Healing series depicts a man kneeling beside
an open coffin and touching the forehead of the man inside. The painting
was inspired by a visit of a friend from New York.The man told Laurence
that, when he returned to New York, he was expected to fulfill a
promise to help end the life of a terminally ill friend.The knowledge
weighed on both Laurence and his friend. "It's not about being
morbid: he said, referring to that and other paintings. "I think
the more one focuses on the dark areas of life, the easier they are
to deal with. Isn't that what the function of the arts is ‑ to bring
to the fore the things that in normal life we sweep under the carpet
so we can deal with them?
"There is light, and we can focus on it more easily if we can
accept the contradiction that because of the darkness there is light.