John Tierney’s paintings have a distinct relationship to cinema. Hollywood, California, and the greater Los Angeles area are awash in a rich and intense light that seems to linger over everything with an endless glow, a light as potent as the dreams and realities of fame and stardom promised by the movie companies that populate the city. For a representational painter such as Tierney, the kind of light and environment that Los Angeles offers is irresistible. Tierney’s paintings all exude a deft and consistent touch that creates flattened yet realistic planes, and a seemingly airbrushed texture that mirrors the textures of the objects depicted.
Tierney’s paintings capture the capacities and fallacies of images to both concretize and mystify. These mystifiers are not problematic for Tierney, merely interesting and somewhat opportune. The artist explains: “Edward Hopper once referred to grasping the ‘surprise and accidents of nature.’ While my position is, in this sense, congruent with his, I am also interested in grasping the surprise and accidents of photographs—light and shade, movement, the deportment of people. In short, engaging with the serendipity inherent in a photographic image.” Elvis Aaron Presley is a potent symbol of the draw of stardom, and of the power of Hollywood and the music industry to create near-mythological figures out of ordinary people. In Elvis Is on the Building, Palm Springs (2013), Tierney pairs a mural-size image of Elvis in profile, instantly recognizable, with a group of palm trees in hyperrealistic detail growing just behind a house with a roof covered in Spanish ceramic tiles. As Elvis stares back through the picture plane, viewers are reminded that the man the world knew was forged in Memphis and in Hollywood—iconic towns known for producing iconic figures.