Oil on canvas, 48x60”
Oil on canvas, 6ft x 4ft
acrylic on canvas, 48x60”
60” x 72”
Oil on Canvas
Ink on paper, 30x20"
Artist Statement: Gamble
“Sometimes it happens that the most insane thought, the most impossible conception, will become so fixed in one’s head that at length one believes the thought or the conception to be reality. Moreover, if with the thought or the conception there is combined a strong, a passionate, desire, one will come to look upon the said thought or conception as something fated, inevitable, and foreordained—something bound to happen. Whether by this there is connoted something in the nature of a combination of presentiments, or a great effort of will, or a self-annulment of one’s true expectations, and so on, I do not know;”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Gambler, 1866
Are our lives determined by luck and fate, or decided by personal choices and the willingness to take risks?
These contrasting ideas struck me as I observed the obsessions of gamblers while visiting casinos in Las Vegas. I was especially intrigued by the gamblers seated at the ranks of slot machines. They appeared convinced that they could shape their play, that they could control their chances and win the prize, but their behaviors – their superstitions, talismans and repetitive game playing – suggested deeper beliefs in luck and fate. Like the gamblers, our lives are full of both chance and choice. The human mind is calculating and making decisions each day, some with consequences and others banal, but we are also driven by irrational desires and the thrill of pursuing our passions. I wondered: are we all gamblers?
When gambling, there are always three elements at the forefront of the gambler’s mind:
Consideration, Chance and Prize. The oil paintings and drawings in this exhibit explore these concepts, and the state of mind of the gambler, through imagery from slot machines and symbols with religious and spiritual origins. The themes of temptation, superstition, fortune and belief are shown through various gambling icons and lost languages from ancient texts. The language symbols refer to ancient civilizations where different forms of gambling and gaming began. From the Romans, to ancient China, to the Rig Veda hymn from ancient India, gambling was ever present in all forms of societies from history. Las Vegas is known as the present-day mecca for gamblers worldwide.
In the three oil paintings, I aim to capture both the aesthetic and allure of the slot machines. The structure of the machines is abstracted, with the physical form of slots and reels left faintly outlined. Slot machines are designed to be eye-catching, and along with flashing lights, they deploy their own color theory to attract audiences from a distance. The vibrant, powerful colors of the most popular machines, specifically the “Double Diamond” slots, informed my colour palette. The intricate, almost mechanical movements of the machine’s technology are assembled by purposeful brush strokes. The styles of Kandinsky and Klee heavily influenced the way these paintings allow for colorful, busily-formatted composition. The large scale of the paintings is intended to entice and captivate the viewer, to make real the gambler’s obsession and heightened arousal from the sensory stimuli of the slot machines. The colors and composition are used to mimic the the state of mind of the slots players, commonly known as “Machine Zone”. This head-space allows for a complete immersion into the risk taking game, where the sense of time is lost, there is no awareness of the physical body, and obsessive thoughts about monetary rewards dominate.
My exploration of the gambler’s mind has only just begun. From these initial studies, I plan to investigate the full range of emotional states we experience in a casino, drawing from observation, literature and scientific sources – and personal experience. Taking my ideas much further, I intend to use virtual reality to move beyond the limitations of 2D art forms. The technology will enable me to incorporate choices and risks into the experience, recreating the “Machine Zone” and producing unique artistic expressions that are informed by the viewer’s interactions. As an installation, the project will immerse viewers in different games of chance, where the risk to reward ratio is unquantifiable and where random actions can determine their fate. This will allow the viewers to become aware of their emotional state as a gambler, whether in the casino or in life.
Pen on paper 30x20"
Pen on paper 30x20"
Ink on paper, 30x20"