In Will Thurman’s work, the canvas plane is akin to a jumbled storyboard or comic strip where narratives converge and diverge at will. Populated with hybrid characters – creatures part human, part animal, part object – the paintings reflect a disorienting state of existence; the deluge of storylines makes it difficult to tell which way is up. Using a palette of traffic-light colours, Thurman sends us tumbling through a parallel universe not quite distinct from ours, where the comedic blends with the downright bleak and sadistic.
Though characteristic shapes and compositions are apparent in his earlier works, Thurman’s more recent productions demonstrate greater focus on formal elements. His canvases contain paintings within paintings – mise en abyme that speak to his self-awareness as an artist – and draw attention to the plethora of lenses through which a single story can be told – and retold, and retold. In such storytellings, the artist relies on the visual as well as the textual – the latter evincing his process of learning, and affinity for, the Vietnamese language.
Albeit approaching art with a playful intuition, Thurman is meticulous in his expression; for the artist painting is disciplined, routine labour. Yet despite such control over his own practice, his artworks offer a singular freedom: to place oneself within his scenes, navigate the topsy-turvy landscape, and intervene in their happenings.
Will Thurman (born 1989, New York) received his academic training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S. After completing his studies in 2009, he has since been living in various regions of Vietnam. Though preferring the countryside, he is currently based in Ho Chi Minh City.