Discovery is the key word. No matter what media he is working with, the process must be experimental, generative, and uncover more questions than answers. Gallagher thinks of himself as a facilitator of reactions rather than a creative agent with a resolute goal. His studio practice is formulaic, in that he designs specific variables and then process them with some sort of chance influence to create a product. It’s an empowering spiritual practice and allows for the pursuit of hypotheses and experimentation in a non-institutional framework.
Solvent paintings replace watercolor in his interest in fluid media–“I’ve never found watercolor responsive enough”. After learning about the use of chromatography in forensic science, Gallagher decided to try manipulating inks with more powerful solvents than just water. He was able to procure pharmaceutical grade ethanol, acetone, and petroleum ether to work with. There are so many brands of inks, each with different formulae, that it is a process of experimentation each time I try a new ink or solvent. “I’ve found that sharpie and ball-point pen ink yield the best results. Water-based acrylic inks are interesting as well, because they resist the solvent instead of blending with it.” Once the solvent is introduced to the drawing it is important that the artist not manipulate the page, though he haz begun to introduce small manipulative variables into the process. Many of these pieces draw influence from the Zen Buddhist tradition of Ensō-making, an amazing art-form that inspires his work.
In the deep winter of this year, Gallagher began experimenting with extreme magnetic fields. By mixing his own magnetized paint he realized he could push paint around without the use of a brush or other traditional painting tools. He is still deciding what questions these pieces pose. “I hope they will challenge the viewer but also offer visual insight into the fascinating world of magnetism.”