Jason Ward is a dynamic cartographer of how the virtual and the actual are mutually implicated in systems of information exchange. Modernist architecture, geometric murals, improvised digital landscapes and even computational projects about mapping the world around us all play into Ward’s artistic practice in equal measure. His aesthetic sits at the very forefront of understanding how we are enmeshed in systems of logistics and forms of logocentrism that are associated with geometric motifs.
His most recent projects have focused on how the notion of identity is bound to the types of ideation that we readily ascribe to a sense of place and space. Here, the notion of space is meant to be part of how we decode, demarcate and catalog images while the idea of place is connected to how we process, interpret, and assign different types of meaning to cultural and computational codes. These kinds of critical interventions are needed during a time when the landscape is undergoing an unprecedented process of global documentation through surveillance and many other means. Of course, all of this has implications for our shared social and political existence. How much and to what degree we can be surveilled; how this information is used and how quickly we can be located; not to mention whether or not all of this takes place in real-time or against what kinds of restrictions --- is a grey area fraught with legal conflicts and widespread contestation.
That is because it is these same issues that are embedded in how we understand who controls space, visibility, and the right to be seen. Our sense of heritage, history, and even cultural landmarks, are increasingly viewed within the context that has come to be known as a “politics of optics”. In this cultural climate, Ward's aesthetic represents a queering of the genre of landscape painting --- an opening up that allows us to see the spaces we inhabit otherwise --- constituting a type of interventionism in what the artist refers to as “maligned geographies”. For Ward, these are spaces that have acquired negative connotations in the cultural imaginary, but which, through direct and performative actions, can be transformed in symbols of empowerment on a regional, national or even international stage. For all of these reasons, and many more not mentioned here, Ward's projects are among the most challenging and timely interventions into landscape painting and geometric art being made in the world today.
Bio: Jayson Ward’s work is located at the nexus of art and geography, a historical intersection in western art history that began in the 16th century with the advent of landscape painting and cartography. As a field, landscape painting holds a diminished place in contemporary art. The consensus being that it reached its zenith of influence in the western world between the 17th and 19th centuries and then declined with the onset of modernism. Ward’s current work is in dialog with not only contemporary art practices but also social and political geography and rejects the notion that landscape painting cannot provide a critical narrative and social mirror. Place and identity are intimately bound in human experience, and provide a union fecund in positive and negative potentialities such as community, a sense of place and belonging, geographic and civic pride, along with geographic chauvinism and potentially violent nationalism and regionalism.
Ward’s paintings focus on the non-heroic, non-sublime and non-pastoral quotidian landscapes in which we spend our everyday lives, as these are the places where we truly form our identities and establish memories. Using a ‘loud,’ perhaps even camp color palette that is purposefully and unapologetically unrestrained, coupled with camouflage and disruptive patterns, Ward’s current paintings tend to eschew notions of correct color composition and harmonious relations that are taught in traditional design and color theory. The camp aesthetic in a sense ‘queers’ the landscape and the historically masculine landscape painting tradition. The loud colors coupled with camouflage and disruptive pattern motifs function simultaneously as anti-camouflage and seductive camouflage, allowing the paintings to call attention to themselves and grab the viewer’s gaze against any possible backdrop; particularly in relation to the historically ‘neutral’ frame of the white cube gallery.
Most recently, Ward’s work has begun focusing on maligned geographies. These are places that have acquired negative cultural connotations either regionally, nationally or even internationally, but have in turn become symbols of empowerment for the people living within them. This line of inquiry evolved from Ward’s upbringing in the southern United States as well as time spent living in Southern California’s Inland Empire, two regions that have often found themselves maligned.