Seth Armstrong paints a fine line between intimacy and trespass with voyeuristic curiosity

Black Couch - Oil on canvas, 2014. All images via submission.

LA-based artist Seth Armstrong crafts paintings that self-consciously capture a sense of looking, arresting moments with cinematic detail and voyeuristic curiosity.

Varying in scale, his works offer views that are alternately intimate and vast, moving expertly between the monumental and the minute. Laden with detail and suggestion, each piece offers a moment in the trajectory of a larger narrative, and the viewer is compelled to realign the fractures of these inconclusive moments. Hanging the works on suggestion rather than on the overt, Armstrong builds tension and excitement in every painting with the possibility and expectation of action. Surfeited with this palpable sense of permanent anticipation and arrest, the air is indeed thick enough to cut.

Originally from Los Angeles, Armstrong studied painting in northern Holland and completed a BFA at San Francisco’s California College of the Arts. His deft handling of oil paint clearly demonstrates a facility inspired by traditional painting techniques and a material aptitude for the dense capture of light and colour. The intense realism of his style is often tempered by a looser, more painterly approach, and by stylised handling of light and dimension.

With viscous luminosity and substantive flesh, qualities achieved with a seamlessly clean application, his works feel heavy with tactility and dense with tangible space and body. Armstrong’s use of stark saturated contrasts is offset by a tendency towards stylised hyper-colour, creating both depth and edge that exceeds the muted tones of the real. These contrasts achieve a sense of brooding visual tension that manages to evoke both nostalgia and strangeness simultaneously.

Armstrong continues to explore themes that have consistently fascinated his output: the intrigue of illicit looking, and the fine line between intimacy and trespass. Just as cinema manages to satisfy our innate love of voyeuristic access, so too do the paintings offer us views onto private lives that both frustrate and satisfy. The suggestion of constant narrative pervades even the stillest and least active views, as Armstrong reminds us of the secret recesses behind all closed doors and all quiet faces.

To see his work in the flesh, Armstrong will be featured in the LA Art Show, until the end of January 2016 at the LA Convention Center. He'll also have some work at the Honolulu Museum of Art in February as part of Pow Wow Hawaii, and he'll showcase some new paintings at Scope New York 2016 in March. Also, keep an eye out for a big solo show in 2017 at Los Angeles's Thinkspace Gallery.

Catalina – Oil on wood, 2015

Catalina – Oil on wood, 2015

Colour On the Ritz - Oil on paper adhered to wood, 2015

Colour On the Ritz - Oil on paper adhered to wood, 2015

Dusk From the 27th Floor - Oil on paper adhered to wood, 2015

Dusk From the 27th Floor - Oil on paper adhered to wood, 2015

From the 27th Floor - Oil on wood, 2014

From the 27th Floor - Oil on wood, 2014

Night School - Oil on paper adhered to wood, 2015

Night School - Oil on paper adhered to wood, 2015

Nude Reclining - Oil on wood, 2015

Nude Reclining - Oil on wood, 2015

Spring St. - Oil on canvas, 2015

Spring St. - Oil on canvas, 2015

Sundown On the 27th Floor - Oil on wood, 2015

Sundown On the 27th Floor - Oil on wood, 2015

The Balcony - Oil on paper adhered to wood

The Balcony - Oil on paper adhered to wood

The Wrestlers - Oil on wood, 2015

The Wrestlers - Oil on wood, 2015