"When COVID first hit and we were all in isolation I started manically painting the colorful faces. To me, they are the culmination of the anxiety and uncertainty of these times." We've not had the chance yet to properly feature Derek Aylward, one of the real painters' painters out there, so we're happy to announce he will be releasing a series of 10 unique works titled Backhand a Bit Off with Variable Editions on March 15th. The crowded scene painted with acrylic, ink, and watercolor on silkscreen print on paper is an extension of the artist's ongoing practice through which he uses figurative elements to explore the possibilities and limitations of his own technique and the medium.

Over the past few years, we've been keeping an eye on Alyward's work and thoroughly enjoyed his persistent research of certain motifs that he would repaint over and over again, testing their variability and how much they change with the use or obsolescence of different elements. After exhausting the motif of a stylized head or a face for a certain period of time, the artist started working with more complex, crowded compositions recently. "As an artist, my process always begins with drawing," the artist mentioned in a statement accompanying the release. "I draw constantly, typically from imagination and memory and mostly figures and faces."

Constructing his visuals intuitively and fast, these characters become a cast of the scenes Aylward is depicting, and are characterized by expressive marks, rounded shapes, an abundance of colors, and a variety of surfaces that result from such an unmediated approach. This gives the work that irresistible charm of both folk art or graffiti, the types of works we have a special weakness for as they are a direct product of artist's urge to create and express themselves. Sometimes refined, sometimes rough and expressive, the works are constantly balancing between a vibrant harmony of elements and an impulsive mark-making, which for many is the essence of painting. "Things can feel ridiculous and serious at the same time, and I think when I achieve that feeling through my work, I am most satisfied with what I have made," Aylward explains the source of this tension and balance.

Such an approach is fully captured in this small series of individually painted silkscreen prints produced by the Master Printer Keigo Takahashi in Brooklyn. Based on an image that was the artist's response to the past year of tension and variability, this series feels like the perfect inaugural release for the Variable Edition. "This project spawned from my passion for collecting and I noticed early on the forever uphill battle to acquire original work collectors face," the Project Curator Travis Landry told Juxtapoz about what sparked the idea to launch this unique venture. "You are always hearing of waitlists, supporting the program, or just that nothing is available, and sometimes a lithograph or even hand embellished print does not cut it for your collecting thirst. So Variable Editions is here to fill that void." Looking at a lot of active artists today, it can be common practice for large canvases to have a basic silkscreen foundation beneath the paint so this concept takes the thought behind that practice and scales it down resulting in a series of unique work.

Produced with acrylic, ink, watercolor, and silkscreen ink on woven paper measuring 22” x 30” (55.88cm x 76.2cm), the works will be available online on March 15th at 12:15 PM EST via variableeditions.com, with a portion of the proceeds going to The Greater Boston Food Bank. Variable Edition's second release will be with Ryan Travis Christian, followed by Marcus Leslie Singleton and Ana Benaroya. —Sasha Bogojev