Three years ago, Jeff Musser says that he was stagnant – that he was comfortable, but his life and art were complacent. He knew that he was in need of a dramatic, seismic change in the way he thought about and made paintings, and that he had to become really uncomfortable in order to push his life and work in a new direction. He moved to China – a country where he didn’t know anyone, had no connections, started a job he had no experience doing, and with no knowledge of the language. He states that it was one of the most terrifying things he has ever done, but the discomfort he felt reinvigorated his creative practice. His new body of work is based on the last two years he spent in various Chinese cities.
Before a painting becomes a painting, Jeff forms a rough draft by making a collage. He uses his own photographs, drawings, and other source material to form a blueprint for a particular emotion or recollection. He says that this process is akin to how people construct memory – drawing together fragments of images to provoke wider unfolding associations, inviting us to consider how actions, events and representing images are interpreted. Recently this process has become especially relevant for him. He says that the value of making collages comes from stitching together photos as a fabric, extracting information and then providing that cumulative information as a totally different package in the form of a painting.
Now, Jeff says that his painting process is more spontaneous and loose. The brush strokes are larger, more expressive, and he allows for happy mistakes to happen in the studio. Even his pallet has expanded to include brighter colors. His latest progression parallels the many dramatic hybrids of styles that have occurred within Chinese contemporary art and culture.