Paul Vincent Bernard . . . from page 1
In Bernard’s case it is difficult to separate the artist from his art. It is a relationship that began in Bernard’s youth. Born and raised in Utah, he developed an early interest in the arts, one supported by a family that provided him with art and music lessons. At nine he started working with watercolors, studying under Harold Peterson at the Art Barn. Through high school he was always sure to have art classes in his schedule. This insatiable need paid off when Bernard was able to begin studies at Brigham Young University on an art scholarship. Sadly, his time there was short-lived. The pragmatic artist could not deny a loyalty to the family business, nor the responsibility that he felt to raise his own family. These responsibilities became concerns when Bernard was left to rear his four children as a single parent. They occupied much of his time until he was eventually able to seek further personal enrichment by taking art courses at the University of Utah. Out of simple curiosity he signed up for a lithography class, and Bernard the artist was reborn, and Bernard the printmaker manifest.
Bernard’s work has a sense of mystery to it in its ineffable nature, its portentous appearance, and its sheer power; and to grapple with his body of work one must understand the importance of printmaking techniques. Says Bernard, “The whole reason I went into printmaking was the variety of marks that could be made as a printmaker.” His is an intensity of cognition that is focused on the minutia of the detail, not the literal, but the figurative. He found in printmaking the best way to describe his most natural expressiveness. As his new body of work shows, he has also been able to translate this expression into painting.
For years Bernard exhibited his distinctive, ever-evolving prints in a number of local venues. Several years ago he also began showing paintings. Small ones appeared at Tanner Frames (whose owner, Travis Tanner, is a close friend and fishing buddy). The works were so similar to his prints that at first it was hard to realize he had made the shift. “I paint like a printmaker,” he explains. When JGO Gallery opened in Park City recently, they gave a deservingly prominent place to his larger paintings; and last year, a large-scale exhibit at the Gallery at Library Square -- including an impressive series titled “Monoliths”-- became a demonstration of his monumental ability.
Bernard is currently working exclusively on “paintings,” but his technique will be familiar to any printmaker. He works on large aluminum plates, using a “tooler” to cut into the surface the same way he would engrave a line on an etching plate.|0| But instead of an inking process that would eventually transfer the image to paper, Bernard adds the paint to the surface, where it stays. He then makes a coarse “negative wipe” with the palm of his hand and general excess paint is wiped away.|1| The rawness of the “tooling” allows Bernard control over the conditions of the line, and Bernard’s essence as a printmaker, and now as painter, trickles down to the line, which can be miniscule or flowing. His line is like the atom in his universe of painting and like the atom, the line can be minute even when the form is broad. That broad form, something distinctive and baffling in Bernard’s work, is created by vast repetition. “I told somebody once that I find a lot of comfort in the monotony of repetition, a safe place,” he says. “And it’s not like I am trying to be adventurous, there is a security in repetition.”
Bernard’s process of minute repetition can produce an endlessly fascinating body of work. “Faults and measurements,” a recent work, revisits the geographic theme of his last body of work (see our review), but does so in a more abstract manner.|2| The strata of earth show the concentration not on the overall subject but the line itself, seen here forming fibrous layers of strata within strata beneath the earth’s surface. Small rocks and boulders are created by miniscule line. The top layer is dark with a dense application of tooled line while from every direction spurt energetic and capricious lines evoking the freedom of expression that Bernard finds with his medium. It is exciting to see.
In “Billboards & boardwalk” line suggests meaning in a variety of ways -- precisely at the bottom, gesturally in the middle section, and with dense structures at the top.|3| These passages are never created by broad strokes or a wash, but by the fragmented, repetitive line of the tooler. The liberty of line lends a certain sense of patina to the image, evoking possible interpretations: whether one sees two billboards on a lone country road, or an abandoned drive-in theater, the painting creates a sense of loss and nostalgia.
Bernard’s laborious process full of repetitive movement requires intense focus.|4| “For the most part I am focused on the line I am making,” he says of his time in the studio, “and the next line and the next line and the next… .” One can think of this process as a type of meditation, or similar to another of Bernard's passions, fishing.|5| Or it can been seen as the visual equivalent of what minimalist composers do with their music: viewing his etchings, lithographs or paintings it is no surprise to learn that Bernard -- an avid musicologist with thousands of CDs and LPs representing a huge variety of music -- has a special affection for the minimalist composers, especially Steve Reich. Their use of rhythm and repetition, articulating musical structures through accretion, are paralleled by Bernard’s creation of massive, dense forms with his insistent lines. In such a process a single line can be the difference between one work and the next. Bernard finds satisfaction in these minute shifts, in the “excitement of the variations themselves. There is a lot of beauty in the quotidian,” he says.
The quotidian for Bernard is time spent in the studio, using his outstanding cognitive abilities, his intensity of focus, and the harmony of his vision to create works that bear the look and stamp of intelligence. Despite the laborious nature of his process, Bernard’s creative output in recent years has been such that he was forced to take over another studio space at Poor Yorick. For openings, where you’ll usually find Irene, his wife of ten years,|6| and an assortment of sushi, the space is used as a gallery, where the work can breath free of the clutter of the studio. The rest of the time it is a clean space where Bernard can concentrate on the continuing process of transforming the techniques learned as a printer into a new medium.|7|
For the upcoming exhibit, Bernard will restrict himself to the current body of work created on aluminum plates. These are potent images that the eye and the mind of the viewer may enjoy grasping as they develop their own sense of meaning and sensibility of each. The hauntingly intelligent “Drifting Knolls,” with its crude mass of positive space bears an ominous presence with a fantastical potential for power.|8| In “Piedmont blue,” |9| where a border of blue filigree line seems to float and melt into spacelessness , one might see the figurative elements as reflecting abstract spiritual iconography, the cognitive force and energy of the work providing a universal sensibility to imagery that otherwise might be seen as simply Catholic or Islamic.
In the end it is not what others see but what others don’t see that is the inspiration for Bernard’s subjects. Says Bernard, “I look for what nobody is looking at, spaces, a lot of emptiness, what we disregard.” Apparently, there is something more than just the line that catches the interest of Bernard the artist and the human being, something that he can see but something the viewer can never see. It may be that Bernard sees literally and metaphorically, between the lines, and finds comfort in these places between spaces, zones within secure limitations. Here the artist may find the kind of peace that is the goal of any lifetime -- often more acute for the sensitive artist, who is focused on this, and then the next, and then the next…
Exhibition Preview: Salt Lake City
Best in Show
Artists celebrate animals at Alpine Art
We love our furry friends. Pedigreed pooch or rescued mutt, feisty feline or handsome horse – pets come in all shapes, sizes, and species, and artists participating in this month’s exhibit at Alpine Art capture pets’ personalities in paint and photography. A portion of all proceeds from the show will be donated to Best Friends Animal Society.
When the third annual Best in Show opens for Gallery Stroll on Friday, June 15, your pets are invited, too. In past years, says curator Matt Chiodo, there have been lots of dogs attending and even a turtle. To encourage attendance by the subjects the show celebrates, the gallery has asked local artist Zoe Rodriguez to photograph pets. She will be there from 6 – 8 p.m. There’s no charge for the sitting, and prints may be purchased from Rodriguez after the event.
As for the 30-some pieces of art, expect some whimsy and lots of personality. The postcard image, “Commando,” by Zoe Rodriguez, captures one of those awkward poses with legs splayed that dogs excel at. In one painting in the show Darrell Driver imagines a pug as a zebra. “A lot of the art that artists bring will be about the emotional attachment people have with their pets,” says Chiodo.
“This is a great community building event for us, and, of course, it supports something that matters,” says Chiodo. The gallery has tried to get the word out to the pet owner population through Best Friends and various other pet organizations.
This kind of show is a natural fit for Alpine which has it’s own shop dog, Abby, who is always there. She can usually be found napping hard by the front counter, undisturbed by the flow of customers.
Exhibition Preview: Salt Lake City
Parking Lot Sale
A chance to clean house and clean up with art supplies
It's a spring cleaning of sorts (though the event will be a week too late to call it that). On June 30th, three local arts organizations come together to help you clean out and clean up. For those with a few too many books, paint colors you just don't use anymore, or a massive easel that has more dust than dabs on it, the Art Access Parking Lot Sale offers an opportunity to do something other than toss things into the waste bin. On the other hand, if you're looking for a good read, inexpensive frames, or some art supplies to get your creative juices flowing, the Parking Lot Sale offers an opportunity to really clean up.
The basic idea is this: if you have stuff, bring it; if you want stuff, buy it. To avoid the heat of the day, the sale will be in the morning hours.
Sellers will have to bring their own table and chair (if desired). Art Access will process all sales, including credit cards, and retain a 15% commission, plus a $20 reservation fee to participate (email email@example.com to reserve your spot). If you want to clean house but aren't interested in sticking around to sell your items, you can donate them to Art Access by dropping them off from
10 am – 6 pm, between June 18th and 22nd. Art Access will keep what it needs for workshop programs and sell the rest, and you will receive an in-kind donation receipt (but please do not donate any hazardous liquids or supplies that are mostly used up.)
Artists of Utah has decided to join up with our friends at Art Access and will be holding our Annual Book Swap that day. Our idea for this is still the same -- bring in your art-related books and take some new ones home. You can trade two-for-one, make a donation to Artists of Utah in exchange for some books, or leave your books as an in-kind donation. We'll also have our new 15 Bytes t-shirts under our tent.
Tanner Frames is also joining the party. Some of you may remember that years ago we organized a Frame Swap (similar to our book swap) with Travis Tanner when he was leaving his original location in Sugarhouse. After nearly six years at Artspace, Travis is moving once again (this time to 8th South and Main, near Mini's Cupcakes). He's excited because he'll be getting twice the space at almost half the cost, allowing his crew to work on bigger projects and his gallery space to show more art. But even though he has room, he's not eager to haul everything from one location to the next. So he'll be unloading lots of ready-made frames, remainder pieces big enough for frames, and a lot of the equipment that made his space difficult to navigate.