“My work is meant to be physically experienced”, says San Francisco based artist Doug Argue FAAR’98. Still, a selection of images of Argue’s meticulous, large-scale paintings impressed the jurors of the London International Creative Competition (LICC) so much that they awarded the artist first prize in its 2009 contest. The announcement was made in a ceremony at the Soho Theatre on London’s Dean Street the evening of 6 September.
Now in its fourth year, the LICC “was formed to provide an open platform and an even playing field for artists from all walks of life.” The LICC’s mission statement underlines its breadth and scale: “the competition is open to artists from around the world and is judged solely on the artwork.” It’s a massive enterprise: this year saw entries from over 5000 artists from more than five dozen countries, yielding fifteen finalists. Argue’s work, as well as that of the other finalists, will also be showcased during the 2009 Lucie Awards for photography at New York’s Alice Tully Hall on 19 October.
Argue told the SOF Blog he submitted to the LICC prize images of some “big works I am just finishing…I am overjoyed by the recognition and hope it helps the work find a way into the world.”
Take one of those works that caught the attention of the LICC jury, The New Organon. Argue explains in his statement: “I noticed how letters, like atoms and chromosomes, are basic building blocks that can be taken apart and constructed in new ways, and through time the forms they create change, like Heraclitus’s river in the aphorism that says that you cannot step into the same river twice; and so everything is in a constant evolutionary flow.”
Argue continues, “….In the spirit of remaking an old form into a new one and to create a less predictable pattern of letters in the painting than just an alphabet for The New Organon, I took letters from the book of Genesis and after distorting them in Photoshop, put them back together into a big bang. The shifting cosmologies of time past and time present filled with myth and reality feels a bit like the world I live in.”
Born in St. Paul and educated at Bemidji State University and the University of Minnesota, Doug Argue emerged already in his early 20s as a leading force in the Twin Cities art scene. There his work is represented in virtually all of the leading collections, including those of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and (quite exceptionally for a living artist) the Minnesota Historical Society.
In 1997 Doug Argue was awarded the Jules Guerin Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome. For his large-scale work, Argue’s Academy studio seemed purpose-built—a free-standing pavilion in the forecourt of the McKim, Mead & White building with a skylight, arched windows and 20-foot ceilings.
“People treat you differently here,” he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in 1998, reflecting on life in Rome versus that in Minneapolis. “You tell someone at the coffee shop that you’re a painter and they’re happy. Back home, you tell someone you’re an artist and they’re suspicious. Here, it’s a respected profession. There’s just been a lot of culture here for a long period of time.”
In 2001 Argue married landscape architect Mary Margaret Jones, also a 1998 Fellow at the Academy (and current member of the Board of Trustees); since then Argue has worked in San Francisco.
Doug Argue’s website offers a comprehensive picture of his work, both completed and (quite unusually for a painter) in progress. “The idea of my web site is to create a true retrospective; by which I mean to show almost everything I have done”, explains Argue. “A web site, with all of its virtual space, is a good place to make myself vulnerable in this way. I choose to expose my mental leaps and falls, showing connections between paintings and ideas that would not otherwise be visible.”