Al Denyer's Gold Rush
Discussing a new series of drawings at House Gallery this month
During the month of January Salt Lake's House Gallery presents Barents Shore, an exhibit of new works by University of Utah professor Alison (Al) Denyer. For the past several years Denyer has been using satellite imagery of rivers and coastline as the inspiration for her work. Her Flow Series, which won her a Utah Arts Council Visual Art Fellowship last year, was executed with extremely minute shadings on graphite pencil to create subtly evocative pieces. With this new body of work Denyer has turner her gaze to images of the rapidly shifting ice flows of the Arctic. Executed on black paper, with oil pastel and colored pencil, these large works are inspired by the rapidly increasing coastline and flowing sheets of ice that are making the once neglected region the source of a new gold rush. In this interview, recorded in the spring of 2011, Denyer discusses these new works and the geological and political turmoil they imply.
Arts Council Fellowships, and Art Fitness
If you missed the note we embedded into last month's edition regarding the winners of this years Visual Arts Fellowship (we went to press before the announcement, but slipped it into our On the Spot feature on Jared Clark) the winners are . . . James Charles and Jared Clark, both Salt Lake City artists.
They were selected, from a pool of 85 applicants, by Cris Bruch of Seattle, Washington, whose statement reads, "I am most interested in art (in any medium) that presents itself as the evidence of an ongoing thought process into which there are openings for participation; that demonstrates a collaborative and conversational engagement with its physical materials; that balances improvisation with rigor; and that displays both humor and a certain humbleness of origins"
James Charles’ work caught his eye, Bruch says, because of its "quiet and unsettling assertion that what we perceive to be the main event, the point of things, is in actuality a de-contextualized fragment. Charles’ work asks us to consider how we assign meaning to our experience, and opens a moment for the realization that we may have missed the point, and the spaces in between where the poetry is."|0|
You may know Clark's work from recent exhibits at the Rio Gallery and his installation at the
Salt Lake Art Center Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. In his decision, Bruch cited Clark's epistemological project: "With simple and direct means, he often makes familiar objects momentarily strange, suspending language and knowing for a brief moment. In that moment of not knowing what we are seeing there is a kind of vertigo, or amnesia. Clark’s work posits alternate meaningful realities for things, and presents materials as having their own agency, as having their own animating presence, as being full partners in artistic expression.”|1|
You'll have a chance to catch more of Jared's Clark work in February at House Gallery.
Here at 15 Bytes we try to keep you up to date on contemporary artists like Clark and Charles. But if you still find yourself a little intellectually flabby when visiting your local gallery or museum, the UMOCA (Utah Museum of Contemporary Art) offers their "Art Fitness Training" program. “Museums have for too long encouraged visitors to rely on the institution for an explanation of the art, allowing the general public to get flabby when it comes to art interpretation,” says Felicia Baca, Curator of Education and Public Programs, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. “Art Fitness Training empowers the viewer to interpret, understand, and enjoy the works using the tools they already possess.” With an emphasis on close observation and easy to grasp principles, the workshop is designed to give audiences "the ability to appreciate even the most difficult contemporary art." It's a three-part program, occurring on consecutive Saturdays: January 28, February 4, and February 11 from 3:00 to 5:00 PM. Registration is $75.00, or $60.00 for UMOCA members, and includes participation in all three classes. Register at www.utahmoca.org/art-fitness. We haven't been able to confirm that UMOCA director Adam Price will be dressed as Richard Simmons, but the chance of it happening might be worth the entrance fee.|2|
Deborah Brinckerhoff . . . from page 1
The drawing that occupies the left side of one of the pieces for the Phillips show, "The Great Flying Francini," is nothing more than a coarse line sketch. What is marvelous about this canvas is, although the figure is hardly a figure, the canvas bursts with streaks of white, yellows, a bold dash of red, strokes that are heavy here and loose there. The classically trained Brinckerhoff paints abstracted energy in leaps and bounds, and it turns out that the figure is actually a copy of a sketch done by the artist’s young son and these leaps and bounds are the emotional response to her son’s boundless energy. Of course the viewer will never know this unless they get to know the artist to whom this is very personal, but to most this canvas is capricious and vivacious. I am closer to understanding the artist’s work, in that with her consistencies lies a personal point of departure. I learned quickly after seeing "The Hanging" that Brinckerhoff does not always have a point of departure.
"The Hanging" is a square, dark figure filled with black. There is some semblance of a small off-set head and a body whose only natural corporeality consists of four appendages. Brinckerhoff has no “story” for this figure although she states, “I’ve always been interested in the psychological level of the human condition and the body and seeing what the body can go through.”
Although this is not a departure in the sense of the personal story of the sketch with her son, this gives weight to the work. Brinckerhoff’s concentrated emotional energy is focused on the psychological level, and in "The Hanging," we see intense, focused energy in the incomprehensible. The figure is a structure that seems to have been invented by the artist’s emotion and not vice versa. The figure exists at odds with itself in its illogical form and its mismatched surroundings. It is black against white and heaviness against airiness. But even without knowing the artist’s individual inspiration, the viewer will feel much from the work: tension, anxiety, contradiction, and opposition, along with uneasiness, fear, even the uncanny for some. I have discovered more of the mystery, that is, for the artist, her intensive use of emotion in her work.
"Breaking Plates" is again another inventive and utterly different figural creation painted with total artistic freedom brought to life by emotional energy. “All of my work is more emotional than it is literal,” says Brinckerhoff. “I feel like the paintings really have to have a life of their own” and to the senses they do. How could Brinckerhoff hope to achieve the desired “communication” with her audience without this emotional ingredient?
"Breaking Plates" is gruesome, compelling and charming. A sort of rag doll, this figure occupies more positive space on the canvas than any of her other paintings. The limbs break laws of physics, the colors are garish, the brushstrokes messy and yet the composition is addressed with such concerted emotion and love for the impossibility of the figure, that Brinckerhoff.’s emotional process makes this a first-rate abstraction that is alive with character and fully dimensional, at once irrational and yet totally natural.
Putting aside all tools of logic and deduction, knowing nothing about "Sink or Swim, "I try to appreciate it as any gallery-goer might, to experience the “free flow between the painter and the viewer.” I see a blithe, supernatural, intelligent and distinctive subject that truly “has a life of its own.” This is a figure that cannot help but engage my imagination with arms like tubes of rubber that grope in space, the small head bears an extra-terrestrial intelligence; the fecund body is preposterous and comic.
The figure is rendered with loose gestures that put me at ease with an artistic laissez-faire manner to the haphazard and the random acts of painting that seem unable to do wrong. The colors are fresh and the aureole of white enshrouding this frolicsome being is layered with tones to add to the mystical energy and wonders of this composite being that seems so natural. The composition delights and amuses me and I marvel at the contradictory state of the uninhibited painterly qualities of the composition depicting a subject so unique and so immeasurable to my senses. Like its counterparts, it seems a product of emotional energy and I experience feelings of awe, bafflement, curiosity and most surprisingly this absurd figure arouses in me a feeling of the sublime… a limitlessness mingled with some aspect of an unthreatening fear.
Visiting Brinckerhoff’s studio, I was instantly met with intrigue, curiosity, contemplation and delight in her work and I was determined to find rhyme and reason. Through our conversation I learned much about this unique artist who understands her work well and is able to speak fluently on her approach, or approaches. But some art is simply not meant to be bracketed and analyzed. Art such as this that is painted with an intensity of authentic emotion should and can be enjoyed on many levels. It is fresh, personal and explosive.