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A Closer Look: Chuck Tingley's 'Biggest Little City in the World'

Artist: Chuck Tingley // "Biggest Little City in the World," 2014 // On view through in "Memento, through June 5 in El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera

For Buffalo artist Chuck Tingley, whose work often surrounds recognizable faces with a sea of multilayered abstract color, painting is a way to process his own memories and experiences.

That's the simple and straightforward idea behind "Memento," his current show at El Museo. Each painting in that show is a memory of some life experience that was important to Tingley, pushed through his semi-abstract filter and presented as a hybrid of daydream and reality.

His eye-popping piece "Biggest Little City in the World," for example, was inspired by a 2104 trip to Las Vegas to get married to his girlfriend. Its central figure, presented from two perspectives, seems to be proudly bearing the weight of some enormous blood-red cloud.

" 'Biggest Little City in the World' was my first exploration in this series," Tingley said. "I was pondering the whole situation of how and why we eloped there. So I created this person that I could relate to, with the weight of the world on her head, and her contemplation of what to do in order to relieve all of the pressure."

A closer look at that piece:

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His painting process, which ties concrete images to abstract landscapes, is all about improvisation and experimentation.

"I'm not very good with slow and methodical. I've always been more interested in experimentation and risk-taking and spontaneity, which sometimes opens me up for failure. I've found a way to work around my impatience is by building the painting up in layers," he said. "Through this meditative process of building up layers of texture and color, a conversation ignites and the painting eventually starts talking to me.

"My emotional response is a representation of the human figure, which also serves as the middleman in the conversation. Throughout these layers, the dialogue can go in all sorts of directions -- boring, exciting, ugly and beautiful. There's also new discoveries and happy accidents along the way, and sometimes failure.

"For me, a successful painting happens when a conflict develops between my narrative and the surface of the painting. When the abstract starts to swallow the reality, or what we know as reality, I find that that's when it really gets interesting."

Two more examples of Tingley's work in "Memento":

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