David Hornung paints what could be considered an amalgam of landscapes, portraits and still lifes in matte acrylic on linen. The individual elements in the paintings appear more as icons; void of detail and largely symbolic. With careful study of what can seem like disconnected imagery, a story can be pieced together. People are observed in their natural surroundings, often appearing with human-made, physical evidence of their presence there, i.e. houses, furniture, and tools. Their effort to make sense of their place in this environment is palpable.
I have always been drawn to the “flattened” pictorial representation one finds historically in icon painting, pictorial textiles, Asian art in general and the pictures that children make. These modes of picturing show us the world while, at the same time, account for the essential duality of painting: that a painting is both image and object. When I am working, I try to maintain an essential flatness throughout the painting, using color, shape and touch rather than volume and illusionistic space to convey meaning.
I use my memory and imagination to invent pictures. The subjects I like to paint are ordinary—walls, ladders, rocks, trees, simple buildings, garden tools, ropes, bones, rickety tables. I also paint plants, animals and the human figure. I strip all subject matter of extraneous detail so that it creates an emblematic rather than naturalistic impression on the viewer. This also makes it possible to intermingle pictorial elements with abstract and semi abstract shapes. Such stylization allows fluid interrelationships between color, shape and symbol in a way that, I hope, communicates what I believe to be the mystery and uncertainty of existence.
David Hornung is a painter, author and teacher. He has taught painting, drawing, and color at Indiana University, Parsons, Pratt, Skidmore College, Brooklyn College, and the Rhode Island School of Design. He is currently professor of art at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. His home and studio are in Queens, N.Y.