Lee Harvey Roswell: The Nothing Manifesto

Much has been said and written about what comes or does not come from ‘nothing’. All the ‘isms’ of the intellectual world have dwelled upon nothingness, either trying to figure out what exists within the vacuum or trying to understand the nothingness itself. Man has always dealt with the issue of being the sole intelligent species known to him and thus he remains lost in a Universe that seems to have begun out of nothingness.

However, the awareness of nothingness helped man to create strategies that would help in the creation of something seemingly profound. This profound subject matter could be described as the will to live, and the wish to understand the world as it is. All that has been recorded, understood and discussed through religion, science, and philosophy stems out of nothing. Paradoxically, these human constructs shy away from the ‘nothing’ and when they do face it, they either lose sanity or remain disturbed and melancholic.

Perhaps, nothing does have something. Perhaps ‘nothing’ has the ability to encourage angst, melancholy or the drive to seek an understanding of the Universe. Perhaps that is what all the ‘isms’ seek to do. Make sense of what comes out of nothing and how it ends up being something. Thus, ‘nothing’ ends up being something. Lee Harvey Roswell is an American artist who explores nothingness and the trauma of existence not withstanding the vacuum. His paintings negate the mundane and the banal, and create narratives in order to seek out “something” that lies within a neurotic mind. Creativity thus stems from this nothingness of Mind and the Universe.

Humans are condemned to this awareness and knowledge of being alone and existence being temporary and insignificant. The birth of an infant and his growth, the journey he makes until his body begins to wither to finally turn into dust is similar to an artist. It is similar to the artist laying down a blank canvas and applying strokes, and finally create a painting and rather dismally offer it to critics to be reviewed or selling it, or destroying the painting himself. Thus, what came out of nothing goes back to it.

In “The Nothing Manifesto” Lee Harvey Roswell puts forth his ideas about painting without complying with the ‘isms’ that arise out of nothing and end with that. Nothing. He thus explores the bonds between humour and suffering in this state of existence while one tries to answer primal questions. Primal questions about life, existence, being, misery, agony, fleeting joy, transience of it all and death are themes that Lee explores in his art.

His works have been collected and cherished all around the world, and he considers learning to be a life long process. Without adhering to the intellectualism or banality of his contemporaries, he tries to create art that is both compelling and thought provoking at the same time. Though there is a figurative element to his paintings, it is difficult to categorize any of his work. The Joker or the Clown is a recurring theme that occurs in his work and the world is seen through the eyes of the Clown who has a sardonic view of the whole mechanism.

Lee sees the world as a stage where actors appear and disappear, and like the Clown one tries to find humour in an otherwise bleak existence. This humour is perhaps what keeps one going without succumbing to nothingness. Lee Harvey Roswell was born and raised in Freefall, New York. Having gone through melancholy and having questioned those around him, Lee dropped out of school. A self-taught artist, he currently lives and works in San Francisco.

Contact the artist: Lee Harvey Roswell


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