JASON WHEATLEY (TIKUNKIT): THE MAGIC OF ART
ANIMALS PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN THE LIFE AND ARTWORK OF JASON WHEATLEY (TIKUNKIT).
Jason Wheatley and I last met when I curated an exhibition in San Francisco 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve left the museum world, sold my house and most of my “things,” moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to live in a converted adobe goat shed and to write full time for our magazines. The year after the exhibition, Wheatley began painting collaboratively with a group called the Oyster Pilots. “I also got rid of all my possessions, closed my bank accounts and streamlined my existence to a suitcase and a roll of canvases. I completely fell off the grid and began implementing ideas I had been toying around with previously,” he says. “My notion was that Art is Magic or more precisely Alchemy, as the artist creates gold from mud (pigment). I swore off money, began living a currency-free existence and trading art for time and space. This opened up a whole new universe to me and took me to very unexpected places.” Somehow my abrupt change seems prosaic.
I dropped the initial “D” from my name and Wheatley changed his name altogether.
Animals have always played an important role in his life. He says, “I learned the unspoken language early on from interacting and communicating with all the forms of life around me as I was growing up. For me all life force (Élan vital) is a divine and direct link to the All.” He identifies with the monkey, the playful fool, whom he calls Ti Ku, which is now his Facebook moniker. Officially, if there is such a state, he goes by
Jason Wheatley (tikunkit) which, graphically, can become a palindrome. The idea is loosely based on Tikkun olam, Hebrew for “world repair.” For him, a repair kit or “tikun kit.”
Comfortably at home, it seems, in both the material world and the ethereal, his paintings are a bit of both. He may set up a still life inspired by his dreams but the painting and he begin a dialogue. “I never do preparatory drawings. I started approaching it from working abstract and then finding the creatures emerging from the backgrounds. That’s when I began to understand that art is magic and magic is art. I approach my art like a conversation,” he explains. “I try to create a
visual trance so that I can enter into the void of my imagination. You never know where it may end up and that is the fun in engaging in it. For the viewer it is like overhearing an interesting conversation that leads the mind into unforeseen places.”
He says, “I believe everyone can learn how to contort the harsh reality of mere existence into a daily routine of meaningful and magical moments.” We all bring our experience of animals when we view his paintings whether it is direct experience or an awareness of the archetypal meaning of animals. “People have different responses to animals,” he says. “Mice and snakes bring up fear but people identify with monkeys.” A dealer once told him “Paint more monkeys!”
“Art is a visual language,” he explains. “It’s hard to say what your trying to say in the first place. I connect with the archetypes—more of the mystical, magical realm of reality, transcending the soul encased in the duality of the body.”
The magpie occurs frequently in his paintings such as Chasing the Sun. Wheatley collects “mundane bits of reality” for his paintings, much as the magpie does for its nest. It is often seen as an ill omen in the West and a good omen in the East—black and white and signifying opposites.
“The meaningful and magical are most definitely there,” he says. “We all naturally saw them when we were children but now it seems to take some unlearning to get back to seeing through a mystic/magic lens. Magpies are super fantastic creatures—the harbinger of the Other Worlds, black and white duality reconciling the spiritual and emotional opposites. The cackle of the trickster as laughter is the link between joy and sadness.”
He explains, “It’s boring to create meaning. It has to be revealed. I tone the canvas because I don’t like looking at a white canvas, and begin to trowel on pigment. I build up layers and something becomes revealed. I compose off the triangle but the compositions become super intuitive. The less you think, the better. There’s magic to the way oil suspends the pigment and the way it refracts light.”
Paradise on the Edge presents a conundrum. Will the dump truck drive the monkey and creation over the edge? Wheatley creates giclée prints of his paintings and adjusts them for alternative meanings. The painting itself, however, leaves us to wonder.
Wheatley suggests that his paintings come from his dreams and the dreams come from his paintings. To enter into his dream world is to let go of preconceptions and to allow the imagination to be free. William Blake wrote, “The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself.” The magic in Wheatley’s art is a vehicle to the real.
Dollars 4 Foo, oil on canvas, 48 x 36"
Jason Wheatley (tikunkit) painting in his studio.
Food 4 Flight, oil, 29 x 24"