Real Art Detroit // bakpak durden at playground detroit

Real Art Detroit // bakpak durden at playground detroit

I Feel Like I’ve Been Here Before


Bakpak Durden’s solo exhibition, currently on view at Playground Detroit, explores perspective, neurodivergence and intersectional identity. Their series of paintings examine specific experiences that we -as humans- come up against and have to power through in order to maintain the “normalcy” of life. Each painting is Durden’s way of creating a meticulously archival recording of those moments. In doing so, the work validates each occurrence, giving each instance equal value in the cycle; whether it be emotions such as love, joy, or pain and despair. Durden’s work revolves around their lived experience, one that is shaped by race, gender, mental and physical health.

Bakpak’s oil paintings capture and amplify precise moments in time, ingrained with a tension that reflects that of their own emotional experiences: the moment of reckoning upon acknowledging the return of a depressive phase; the moment in which one loses control and sees no opportunity to redirect.

Hopeless oil on wood panel 24×36

In Hopeless, Durden rides the desperate line between giving up and dropping the Iris or choosing to grasp it and rise. The candle, representing light, is snuffed out, the ghost of its existence in smoky ringlets over the artist’s head. The triangle severs the space offering a portal to a change in emotional landscape.

Hopeless right side

The sides of every painting carry messages in text or symbols granting clearer insight into these highly charged images. Here Durden discloses their monumental effort to hold it all together and failing.

Self Portrait (1) oil on wood panel 24×24

In this self portrait, Durden illustrates a moment of feeling so overwhelmed, simply deciding what to eat becomes difficult. The ever-present triangle tugs at their waist cajoling a shift toward hope and promise.

Loud Swirl oil on wood panel 24×36

The artist is comforted by their stalwart companion in Loud Swirl. The triangle surrounds the scene, only momentarily revealing its boundaries. The seemingly ordinary scene contains intentionally camouflaged Easter Egg messages waiting for discovery.

Self Portrait (Backpack) oil on wood panel 24×24

Well, yeah.

Durden’s phenomenal technical skill is impressive. Upon deeper inquisition, these works are profoundly personal narratives on living in that space between light and shadow. Words become inadequate, leaving it to poetic imagery to communicate the artist’s—and humans’—struggle to find a comfortable, authentic space in a world that can exert intolerable pressure to conform. “It’s better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” –Bhagavad Gita

On view through December 18th at Playground Detroit 2845 Gratiot Detroit

*images courtesy of Playground Detroit

direct quote from gallery or artist statements


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