This month, Salt Lake City’s 15th Street Gallery opened an impressive exhibition that features work by Tyler Swain, along with work by Carol Wade and Jenna Von Benedikt. Swain’s work demonstrates his ongoing interest in what he calls “portraits of things” — objects he finds in his daily surroundings, particularly things from the natural world: an apple, a goldfinch, a pair of onions. He paints these subjects against a neutral background with a sensitive attention to detail. He likes to quote a phrase frequently attributed to Leonardo daVinci: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” “I am always trying to find a balance between simplicity and complexity,” Swain says, “and [the “portrait of things”] seems to lend itself well to that kind of balance.”
While patrons are enjoying his works at the Salt Lake City gallery (where, in addition to his portraits of nature, you’ll find works incorporating his kid’s toys and drawings), Swain is back in his northern Utah studio, currently at work on the portrait of a Calla Lily. “I am really pleased with how the background is coming together,” he says. “Sometimes it can be difficult to make something that looks spontaneous yet not draw too much attention to itself. At this point I mostly just need to get in to the subject and decide how much to refine and how much detail needs to be included. It’s nearly there.”
In particular in this piece, Swain is focusing on a sense of light and shadow, a dynamic he hopes will make the work compelling. He’s also trying to loosen up. ” I have found myself painting a little more fast and loose these days. I still love and probably always will love detail and accurate rendering, but I am painting a little thicker, and a little more abstractly lately. This painting is a good representation of the direction I’m heading these days.”
Swain studied art at Snow College and Utah State University (BFA). He has appeared in Artists of Utah’s 35×35 showcase and has been featured by Southwest Art Magazine as one of “21 Under 31: Young Artists to Watch” and one of “10 Painters To Buy Now.” His show at 15th Street Gallery runs through Apr. 7. At Logan’s Summerfest this year he’ll be showcasing watercolor paintings, which is a shift in medium for the artist. And he’s getting ready for a big show in Santa Fe in October. You’ll find more of the artist’s work at his website and on Instagram.
This 15 Bytes feature talks with artists about what is on their “easel” right now.