Kyle Selley (b. 1992) is a Kansas City-based artist best known for his Firework Residue Paintings which explore ideas surrounding nostalgia, spirituality, and the sublime. KC Studio Magazine has referred to his flatwork as “naturally celestial” and “suggestive of infinite space.” Selley builds composition playfully and intuitively, reminiscent of abstract expressionism and artists such as Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky. He references artist Cai Guo-Qiang, but his materials and processes are entirely different.
The smells and sounds produced by fireworks fill me with an invigorating sense of nostalgia and inspiration. I will never forget my childhood memories of the unique marks and colors they left behind after igniting them on my uncle’s driveway every Fourth of July. Inspired by these memories and feelings, I rediscovered fireworks as a mark-making medium. Their repetitive ignition is a cathartic, meditative process. This medium creates paradoxes that are inherent to my work. It forces an embrace of creation through destruction, and I must maintain control while allowing the material to freely dance on the canvas and create marks organically.
I archive the ephemeral beauty of fireworks through multiple mediums-glass, plexiglass, canvas, paper, ceramics, digital imagery, and videography. My most recent series, Spiritual Renderings, was created by igniting smoke bombs and transferring the pigment onto canvas. They portray a soft, ethereal landscape, and reference Judy Chicago’s Atmospheres. These Spiritual Renderings are a newly refined version of my artistic process and an exploration into the transformation of fireworks as a gentle art form. Unlike traditional pyrotechnics, my work explores novelty fireworks as delicate and serene rather than erratic and forceful. Through fluid, atmospheric images, I provide a subtle experience of meditative sublimity, reflecting my state of mind while creating the work.
Following Kandinsky’s desire to convey profound spirituality through an abstract visual language, these Spiritual Renderings express the evolution of my own spiritual life and recent growth. During the COVID-19 lockdown, I got sober, improved my diet, made commitments to charity, and began studying vipassana, stoicism, and phycology, through teachers like John Vervaeke, and Carl Jung, along with ancient philosophers like Plato and Seneca. These experiences have brought a sense of peace and acceptance, which is unavoidably channeled through my art practice. My work is produced through experimentation, intuition, innovation, and moment-to-moment reactions to the aberrant marks created by fireworks. It is a balance between control and acceptance. As my mind has found peace and tranquility, the aesthetic of my work has organically been influenced. Sometimes these changes are deliberate, but they also occur unconsciously, and I retrospectively investigate them.