Jordan Eagles refers to his work on display at The Butcher’s Daughter gallery in Ferndale as the result of a process of facilitation more than active mark making. He uses words like “choreography” when describing the laying down of materials including blood, copper, gauze and UV resin. Eagles dries some of his pieces in sunlight, which has an effect on the blood’s tone. His process incorporates performative, scientific and painterly aspects.
Eagles, beginning as a painter, set out to investigate different facets of life and death through the connection of body to spirit. His work questions the nature of the two, and how they connect. When preserving live matter, is one preserving spirit as well? Does spirit become lifeless when its matter does, or does it continue to have some quickening effect? Not satisfied with exploring his concept with traditional painting, on a whim the artist procured some blood from a butcher and drizzled it onto a canvas. To Eagles, blood has a “charge” like no other material, bringing him closer to his huge, loaded question perhaps best answered with a huge, loaded material. Blood certainly fits the bill. Knowing a work contains blood makes it nearly impossible to not bring too many associations but in the case of Eagles’ large, glossy works, preconceptions quickly fade away. The artist’s total mastery of blood as a medium creates interest beyond its visceral, grisly nature. Layers of blood glazes take on a bottomless depth, connecting elemental material to both the painter’s craftsmanship and other building blocks of life, space and the primordial void. The high gloss of Eagle’s surfaces casts the viewer’s reflection as part of the pieces. This simple, effective device calls to mind one’s intimate, unsettling relationship with the material. The molten copper Eagles incorporates into his blood paintings evokes alchemical associations. He likes copper for its conductivity and energy as well as references to Incan blood rituals, human sacrifice, and their name for gold, “the sweat of the sun.” I mistook the blood-tinted copper for gold at first. Jordan Eagles channels ancient theories involving combinations of particular materials, with the aim of eternal life, of catching the illusive soul and holding it in one place. He creates a dialogue between the history of art and the history of science, which began its current trajectory in the laboratories of alchemists.
Blood Work is on display through November 3, 2012.
Clara DeGalan is an artist and writer working on an MFA at Wayne State University in Detroit. View more articles by Clara DeGalan.