In between having a dream and waking up, there is a last instant when
nothing makes sense but everything is seen with perfect clarity. All
the questions of a lifetime are answered definitively in that one moment,
or so it seems. Then the dream dissolves and the answers dissolve with it,
leaving more questions in their wake. J. T. Grant seems able to capture
that moment of lucid unreason long enough to commit it to canvas. In his
world, everything and nothing is sacred. Spiritualist and iconoclast in
equal parts, he uses (and sometimes, rather hilariously, abuses) religious
iconography as a means of tying together myth and reality.
Grant looks unflinchingly at the dark side, but he does not present it
darkly. He mines the depths of the unconscious and portrays its workings
with classical realism. His technique is so flawless that the Old Master
illusion would be complete, were it not for the fact that he possesses a
thoroughly contemporary world view. Grant is an expository painter rather
than an allegorical one. He gives ritual form to basic psychological states.
Strings and ropes appear in many of the works – sometimes incongruously, as
when they form a surprise element of a still life. These strings are open to
many interpretations, depending on context. They could be ideas, or baggage,
or hope. They could simply defy explanation.
Grant’s figures may be bound or blindfolded in various ways, but they can
move about, and their hands are free. This creates a mystery: did they bind
themselves, or did someone else do so? Certainly it is within their power
to remove the bindings when they choose. In the case of the hooded figures,
they may be deliberately shutting out the visual world in order to see more
deeply into themselves – or to avoid dealing with what they might see. They
become embodiments of life situations, for they have the power to change,
build, destroy, and be redeemed.
Grant is known for his art history expertise as well as for his art. A
sought-after speaker, he has conducted a series of lectures for the Modern
Art Museum of Fort Worth and has also lectured and taught painting and
drawing at the Kimbell Museum and Texas Christian University. His work
hangs in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art and the
Art Institute of South Texas in Corpus Christi. Jurors such as Dave Hickey,
Luis Jimenez, and James Surls have invited him to participate in major
exhibits, where he has garnered Best of Show awards.
Grant’s work is tough and challenging on many levels, yet it never strays
into pathos or aggression. It is, in fact, easy to live with because of
its dignified vulnerability, its meditative quality, and its pure heart.
For a serious collector, it is rather like owning a Caravaggio flavored
with a soupçon of Dali to stimulate the modern mind. Grant does not
parade his own psyche, but seeks to provide viewers with insights into
their own. "I don’t paint for everybody," he says, "but everyone is
qualified to accept or reject my ideas. They have total ownership of
their response." He resists explaining his work, even to himself. "I
don’t know what I’m doing until much later," he says. On a profound level,
this suspension of interpretation is what fills his paintings with
possibility. He operates just out of reach of everyday logic, yet he
does not inhabit a dream world. He lives in that dynamic gap where the
two almost meet, and his art keeps the spark alive.