John Seal’s colorful paintings reveal utopian vistas where ragged items of furniture and obsolescent gadgets become the cornerstone of a life not quite lived, but only imagined. The chairs, lamps, and cups that figure in Seal’s paintings are of limited use; but they are all we would have left to start civilization afresh. At once futuristic and kitsch, these objects constitute our inheritance.
Seal’s wry vision of paradise on earth points to the obsession that technocratic cultures have with their own destruction. His paintings are intended to be both humorous and tragic.
Fruits, gardens, chairs, lamps, cups, butterflies – all these play a unique role as exemplars of nature conforming to a human purpose. The Victorian-style gardens that appear in these works approximate a certain degree of “wilderness,” but they only feature cultivated plants. Although these plants are at times quite lovely, they encapsulate an estranged way of comporting ourselves in relation to the living world. Bending to our delight, brought under our control, gardens and fruits function no differently than modern domestic conveniences: they’re a parody of paradise.