Speed of Life

A Balance of Shadows

Gregg Chadwick, 72" x 96" oil on linen 2004



Gregg Chadwick's
Solo Exhibition: Speed of Life

May 6 - May 29, 2004
Dolby Chadwick Gallery


210 Post Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108
415 956-3560

What makes art sacred is not what it depicts, but the way it opens onto transcendence and carries the viewer into it.
Huston Smith

The great religious scholar Huston Smith has suggested that Gregg
Chadwick's new paintings open onto a transcendent reality. That light itself is the mythic element within these paintings and enables the viewer to shift one’s focus from the concrete nature of paint and linen to intuit a world beyond.

The title of the exhibition, Speed of Life, makes reference to the
incredible pace of contemporary life as well as the brevity of our
lives. In past centuries time and distance acted as a filter against
change and influence. In our era trends and events in Tokyo or Baghdad impact quickly and forcefully. The blur of movement and the fading into light found in the current paintings reminds us of the
fragility of modern life in the face of social and technological change. As individuals our time is short. The paintings in "Speed of Life" call us to let go of the individual ego and reflect on the nature of time.

The work as a whole is a collection of resonant past and present images combined with a mix of invention, memory and dream. These current paintings are rooted within Chadwick's journey. His father was a career military officer in the United States Marine Corps. They moved often and traveled extensively in Asia. These early experiences in Asia, especially the reunions with his family in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong during the Vietnam War, opened Chadwick's eyes to the spiritual paths of the East in art, literature and religion. In the half remembered images that emerge like dreams or memories in these new paintings, the viewer can sense a child’s wonder.
In Gregg Chadwick's paintings there is a search for place, for balance, for connection. But in the 21st Century, the search itself must traverse the beauty as well as the sadness of America's shadow across Asia.

Speed of Life Exhibition

On Whether the Moral Life is a Tightrope or a Level Way

Say you’re the analytic type

always ready with the other hand

compounding interest on all sides

a Libra after balance

and the young thing gives you that second glance,

liking the style—or is it the wealth?—you possess,

ignoring the ring you didn’t slip off.

Is the danger falling or turning away?

What do you measure?

The light of the look?

The shape of the eye?

What scale?  What odds?
How heavy a counterweight do your principles make?

Do you name them there on the coaster’s rings,

count them with each sip of beer?

Do you walk over danger or turn aside?

What’s the hurt in sharing a drink?

What’s the reason? 

You like the attention.

Who wouldn’t respond to the gaze of youth?

You could set a line you wouldn’t cross:

share names not numbers, flirt not fuck.

“Consider yourself a tightrope walker,”

counseled the Rebbe of Rizhin,

“when you’re drawn to one side, lean to the other;

then you stay balanced and can correctly judge the situation.”

Or say you are the feeling type

regularly taking soundings of your heart

following the path that unfolds before you

a Cancer after grace

and the aunt you’ve nursed for years

has died with you the only living heir

and her property substantial,

but when you’re emptying her desk

you find a hasty will she drafted at the end

leaving you her cherished tchotchkes

but her house and assets to a T.V. charity.

How could she disinherit you?

She certainly was unsound, deluded, conned.

And the question rises like Mephistopheles—

who knows about this will

besides that postman who had witnessed it?

Is the danger losing your way or your footing?

Do you help the will over to the fireplace

and watch this shock disappear to ash?

You never turned your back on her.

You cleaned the house, tended her garden,

did the taxes on the assets now intended

for a stranger in a pompadour and slick smile.

How unfair this is; you believed it was yours.

Or do you keep faith with her wishes?

“Whoso takes misbelief in exchange for faith,”

wrote Mohammed, “has erred from the Level Way.”

See how our way can be habitually smooth, a blessed path

where our goodness meets the goodness of the world,

then suddenly become a wire strung across a chasm

where each step’s severe, evil real, and falling easy.

Follow the acrobat, his level eye

not looking down into the shadows,

lifting his feet with practiced skill,

each muscle and breath alive and weighed,

moving at the speed of life, just so,

the judicious focus of adrenaline,

and as step follows step and confidence builds and the horizon nears

the shadows fall, the danger lessens,

the habits of the soul take over from the deciding mind

and the wire becomes a way again, for awhile.

“The way of the righteous is level,” proclaimed Isaiah.

Then Jesus cautioned, “Strait is the gate

and narrow the way leading away to life.”

Hear friends,

there is a tao

with precipices.

What we need is balance.

What we need is grace.


   Kent Chadwick