‘Phy-Psy-Cal’ exhibit is a surrealist take on human emotion

Recent UW-Eau Claire graduate explores the human psyche through art

More stories from Madeline Peterson


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

The exhibit features oil paintings and sketches that will be on display at The Volume One Gallery until April 28.

This spring, viewers are encouraged to skew their perceptions of human emotion at The Volume One Gallery, which is currently home to an art exhibit which explores the body, mind and spirit. Entitled “Phy-Psy-Cal,” the artwork was created by UW-Eau Claire graduate Lukas Carlson and will be on display until April 28.

The majority of the pieces are paintings that depict distorted images of the human body, with faces divided into a kaleidoscopic array of fragmented features. The name for the show is a manipulation of the words “physical” and “psyche,” Carlson said.

“My work is inspired by our emotions being hidden within ourselves … I wanted to bring a physical identity to the psyche and break away from realism,” Carlson said.

According to Carlson’s artist statement, the “hyper-expressive figures comfort the viewers’ connections to how they may feel … I want to exploit the natural tendency for us all to exaggerate our feelings.”

Carlson said he prefers to paint portraits because of how well the audience is able to relate to the subject matter.

“I really like recreating facial expressions, abstracting and painting them on canvas … we all have immediate reactions (to portraits) as we feel and read emotions on other people,” Carlson said.

Although the paintings are portraits, they are not always based on real people Carlson knows but instead incorporate multiple inspirations and influences.

Carlson uses a variety of references to create each portrait, oftentimes utilizing a mixture of his own photography and research he does online. Carlson names the portraits himself, with titles ranging from standard names to historical figures, such as the works entitled “Sophie” and “Elagabalus.”

“I wanted to give them names that reflect the emotion I’m trying to express,” Carlson said.


According to Carlson’s website, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from UW-Eau Claire in 2017. He’d been collaborating with Volume One over cover art ideas for their magazine when the idea for a show presented itself, Carlson said.

“I emailed them a while ago with some new work as a potential cover, and they happened to have an opening for a show,” Carlson said.

Just as The “Phy-Psy-Cal” exhibit blends together many different subject references, it also combines many elements of cubism and surrealism, transcending genres to create unique portraits that, according to Carlson’s artist statement, “hypothesize on the canvas what human personality might look like.”

While creating the pieces in the exhibit, Carlson often varied his process, sometimes working to further develop a sketch into a painting, and at other times painting directly onto the canvas.

“If I have a drawing that’s really powerful, I’ll bring it to the next level … but I have the most fun starting to paint right away,” Carlson said.

Out of all the pieces in the collection, Carlson said he does not have a favorite but rather appreciates each painting for what it is while he’s creating.

“It’s hard for me to have a favorite,” Carlson said. “They’re all my favorite in the moment.”