Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Encounter (2008), by Paul Fenniak

Paul Fenniak is a Canadian painter who creates compelling narrative portraiture. By narrative, I mean that even his more straightforward portraits seem to operate as voyeuristic opportunities to observe a person paused within their personal story. In other instances, as in the image below, the narrative is in full-swing, although ambiguous. His characters strike me as lonely, down-a-notch in life, and sometimes "caught" doing some of the strange things humans do when they believe they are alone (like standing on a bed to listen through the wall to the next room).

From the artist bio written by the gallery that represents his work:

"Paul Fenniak paints detailed psychological portraits and figures in settings with implied action. Deep in thought, Fenniak’s subjects are contemporary in setting but reminiscent of studied portraits that follow the tradition of [earlier figurative artists]. Paul Fenniak’s paintings have luminous surfaces and compelling images that offer a combination of disquiet, uncertainty, urgency, calm, and spirituality. His painting style contains a contrast of inner light with his attention to detail, texture and atmosphere." (From the Forum Gallery website)

Paul Fenniak online

Paul Fenniak
Encounter (2008-09)
Oil on canvas
60" x 48"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Raphael, by Sean Scully

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of the Emerald Isle and it's hospitable people, I'm sending out a painting by arguably the best known Irish abstract Painter: Sean Scully. Still painting today, he represents one of the last surviving artists of mid-twentieth century Abstract Expressionism. In fact, he began his career as many in the art world were declaring abstract work "spent" - that it had exhausted it's avant-garde possibilities. Not for Scully. Since 1960, he has created paintings similar to this one - constructed of vertical and horizontal stripes, or "blocks," many of which are mammoth in scale. A well-known series of his is the "Wall of Light" series, where he intended to make paintings where it seemed as if a wall of stone was emanating light.

I was able to see a large show of his work at the Cincinnati Art Museum a couple of years ago. To stand in front of one of these "walls/paintings" is a great experience. They take over your visual field in complete experience of color vibration.

Sean Scully on ArtNet

"May the Lord keep you in his hand but never close his fist too tight on you." (Irish blessing)

Sean Scully
Raphael (2004)
Oil on linen
108" x 144"

Friday, March 13, 2009

3 by Bo Bartlett

I'm sometimes hot and cold on Bartlett's work. As a realist painter, he has a clear vision and often compelling compositions. Sometimes his work falls into illustration for me - and a bit too iconic. But by and large, I am usually glad I visited his site. He represents something of a "dying breed" in contemporary art: The American Realist Painter. As an artist, I find myself somewhat within this stream as well, attempting to give vision to the everyday experience of life and the deeper significance of the quotidian.

Here is a statement from Bartlett's website:

"Bo Bartlett is an American realist with a modernist vision. His paintings are well within the tradition of American realism as defined by artists such as Thomas Eakins and Andrew Wyeth. Like these artists, Bartlett looks at America’s heart—its land and its people—and describes the beauty he finds in everyday life. His paintings celebrate the underlying epic nature of the commonplace and the personal significance of the extraordinary.

Life, death, passage, memory, and confrontation coexist easily in his world. Family and friends are the cast of characters that appear in his dreamlike narrative works. Although the scenes are set around his childhood home in Georgia, his island summer home in Maine, his home in Pennsylvania or the surroundings of his studio and residence in Washington state, they represent a deeper, mythical concept of the archetypal, universal home."

Bo Bartlett Online

Bo Bartlett
Assumption (2001)
Oil on linen
93.25" x 119.25"

Bo Bartlett
Lifeboat (1998)
Oil on linen
80" x 100"

(I have no idea why the image below has all the figures in blue - some problem with the upload. The original images should be easy enough to find on his website above...)
Bo Bartlett
Young Life (1994)
Oil on linen
78" x 108"