Shane Walsh’s paintings are the result of his involvement with collage, both in a literal sense and as a conceptual framework for understanding the legacy of abstraction. Walsh’s process begins with small-scale collages constructed from photocopies of various shapes and marks – some expressive, others graphic or digital – which respond to the history of abstract painting. Using the collage as source material, he then translates his compositions into large-scale paintings. This overall approach allows him to treat the history of abstraction as a storehouse of moments from which to copy, paste, and sample. This cutting, copying, and pasting, however, owes as much to the punk and hip-hop posters of the artist’s youth as it does to modernist collage traditions.
The photocopy itself also serves as an important metaphor in Walsh’s work. Just as an image repeatedly reproduced on a copy machine will become distorted over time, so our understanding of abstraction is altered as paintings are transmitted and reproduced through time and culture. This process is akin to the children’s game of “telephone”, in which the original message often emerges drastically altered and distorted by the time it arrives at the last participant. For Walsh, these distortions are something to celebrate and provide him with the opportunity to re-construct an image of abstraction that feels appropriate to his time and place.