PARK CITY GALLERIES FEATURE A TIME-HONORED ART FORM
Abstract landscapes are a very personal art form, inviting both creative expression and symbolic interpretation. When talented abstract artists interpret expansive landscapes, stunning works emerge. Vincent Van Gogh’s amazing Starry Night is perhaps the most iconic example of an abstract landscape painting. Imaginative landscape art emerged centuries ago, when both Greek and Chinese artists began painting wildly imaginative scenes in oil and watercolor, reduced to exaggerated block shapes and stark colors to focus the eye of the viewer.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, iconic impressionists like Matisse, Seurat and Picasso eschewed realism as they strove instead to capture the essential landscape elements of light, shadow, color and depth. That tradition remains alive today among “modern” impressionists who employ many of the techniques developed centuries ago to create abstract landscapes.
“Light is always the key,” says local artist William Kranstover, a member of the Park City Gallery Association. Kranstover, who has created many such canvases, believes every painting begins as an abstract landscape. “You lay down chunks of color ﬁ rst and go from there,” he explains.
Park City’s elegant, diverse array of art galleries house an impressive sampling of abstract landscapes by both local and national artists. Here are several of their picks representative of this eminently collectible genre:
SILAS THOMPSON: WILLOW GUARD
“Silas is a really promising young painter from Idaho, still in his 20s,” says Adam Hansen, gallery director and a painter himself. He has a beautiful sense of light and beautiful color in his work. One of the things I personally like about his paintings is that they’re beautiful to look at from far away and also very interesting to look at up close. It’s the way he uses his paint. He applies big chunk paint strokes with a palette knife or a big brush. Yet the whole image holds together from afar. His work straddles the line between traditional and contemporary, kind of a sweet spot to be in.”
As an aspiring young artist, Thompson found inspiration during annual backpacking trips with his father. “I began to treasure the distinct birthmarks and icons of beautiful rivers, valleys and mountains that carve through the high deserts and vast farmlands of the West,” he recalls.
Thompson strives for authenticity in his work. “What I long to achieve in painting is a conversation. Not a lecture and not gibberish, but give and take. I want to bring the viewer only so far. Like a good mountain guide, I want to show them things that they have not seen and then let them enjoy a conclusion. I prefer to toe that line, losing edges yet maintaining integrity.”
MOUNTAIN TRAILS GALLERY
BY TROY COLLINS: THE COLOR OF MY LOVE
Troy Collins doesn’t spare the paint when he sets to work on one of his striking abstract landscapes. He’s been a featured artist at Mountain Trails Gallery for nine years now. “He paints with a lot of texture. Our clients are drawn to that, as well as the bright colors of his work,” explains Erin Evans, director of operations at the gallery.
Living in Montana, Collins is an avid outdoorsman and draws inspirations from landscapes wherever he goes. He says he developed a passion for creating a visual experience “that captures and moves each viewer to connect with the colors, texture and design elements in an intimate way by evoking a tug at people’s heartstrings.”
Evans says Collins is a great friend of the gallery and loves to meet clients and show people how he paints. “He always does paint demonstrations when he’s here for our annual mid-winter show. He’s very passionate about his work,” she says.
Mountain Trails Gallery features a mix of artists, including Simon Winegar, another fine abstract landscape painter. Other genres include western, wildlife still-life and sculpture. Th e gallery prides itself on providing thorough information regarding their artists’ works.
THOMAS ANTHONY GALLERY
BY JEONGHAN & CHOONHYANG YUN: MILESTONE
South Korean artists Jeonghan and Choonhyang Yun, a married couple, create stunning abstract landscape paintings using the traditional Korean method of Hanji, an ancient paper-making technique dating back some 2000 years. The Yuns realized that they could create works as a team differently than what they did individually. Their collaborative efforts are remarkably unique. “I was looking for a high quality artist that worked in abstraction.
The Yun collaboration is all about finding uniqueness and quality.
There are a lot of artists working in abstraction, but with a little more effort you can find something that is very special,” says gallery owner Thomas Anthony.
Hanji is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, carefully harvested by the Yuns each year in Korea. The paper is blended with ground natural pigments to create designs and layers in varying thickness. It is a laborious process of creation, requiring supreme patience and confidence. They are indeed “paper tapestries,” timeless and extraordinarily durable.
“My interest is how people interpret what they’re seeing and the wonderful ideas, concepts and stories they derive based on that. That’s what art is all about. It brings people into the art itself. It becomes a part of their world because they’re identifying with something very specific. It’s the interpretation that collectors and buyers see that puts such a smile on my face,” says Anthony.
JULIE NESTER GALLERY
KEVIN KEARNS: MOUNTAIN
“Our goal is to present contemporary artwork that is visually appealing, unexpected and which contains a high level of craftsmanship. Kevin Kearns’ paintings contain all of these elements,” says gallery co-owner Doug Nester. Kearns’ abstract landscapes are both bold and very personal. His deeply emotive work has been described as vibrant and “atmospheric.” He paints with bold strokes, often allowing the oil to build up and even drip before attacking it with his palette knife. His spacious images are filled with color and light, combining both the organic and abstract components of the scene. “When you look at Kevin’s artwork, it’s obvious that he is creating images of nature and land; but through his unique style of abstraction he is actually creating art that delivers the sense or feel of the outdoors. When you look at his painting, Mountain, you immediately sense the power and scale of the landscape, as well as the cool feel of the weather,” says Nester. “What the painting yields is an intimacy of time and place that meanders through rich details and nuanced perplexity—bafflement being as necessary to the experience of viewing as is delicate reasoning,” says the artist. Kearns studied at the Art Institute of Boston and began his career as an illustrator.
SARAH WINKLER: SALT FLATS TO TIMPANOGOS
Sarah Winkler’s unique approach to creating abstract landscape works, first as paper cutouts or small collage studies, then transferred to wood panels, is definitely nontraditional. “We represent Sarah because her process is so fresh and different. That’s the essence of our gallery,” says Gallery MAR manager Eileen Treasure. “She’s discovered something unique that’s very new and beautifully done. That’s rare in this world,” says Treasure.
Winkler, a British-American living in Colorado, has exhibited nationally for several years. She creates luminous, very colorful acrylics that, in her words, “interpret the geological formations and rich, verdant forests of the American wilderness. I depict the landscape both above and below an imaginary horizon line.” The result is an image that does not mirror, but rather echoes towering mountains and sky.
Winkler paints in acrylics on wood panels that have the look and feel of paper cutouts because of the edges and angles. Unlike most abstract landscapes, which build texture by piling on the paint, Winkler’s acrylics are relatively fl at. Th e technique yields a more contemporary look. “For an artist to interpret a landscape and draw out its essence, you’re simplifying it: the design, the color, the lines, the shape. And yet when you look at it you say ‘yeah, it’s a landscape.’” Treasure concludes.
MONTGOMERY-LEE FINE ART GALLERY
BY ROBERT MOORE: NEAR THE WATERS
Robert Moore’s extraordinary landscapes straddle that ephemeral line between the abstract and realism. The soft-spoken Idaho artist essentially pioneered his now signature technique of painting aspens and landscapes in thick, heavy impasto with a palette knife. Such texture and broad, bold strokes are traditional techniques of abstract landscape painters.
“I have always loved his work,” says gallery owner Linda Lee, who has two of his paintings on display in her own home. “Th e color, design and contrast that he creates in his work is wonderful.” Moore’s oils are amazing, especially considering the fact that he’s colorblind.
“I wouldn’t describe Robert as abstract in the traditional sense because ultimately you can tell what you are looking at. However, his palette knife work and color choices are very unique and exhibit a lot of freedom. Th at gives him a lot of versatility when it comes to placement of his work in more contemporary or traditional spaces,” explains Jennifer Fargo, director of the gallery.
Moore says he delved into art as a way to freely express his feelings. He holds a bachelor’s degree in art with teaching credentials from Eastern Oregon State University. Th e artist has, for three decades, influenced the broader art community as a mentor to other artists exploring his signature style.
SUSAN SWARTZ STUDIOS
BY SUSAN SWARTZ: ZION’S GLOW
Susan Swartz is a prolific Park City-based artist whose work is inspired by the intersection of art, nature and spirituality. “Park City is my home base and its mountain setting has always been one of my greatest sources of inspiration. As my work increases to travel to different international exhibitions, it has become even more important to me to have a permanent place to share my work,” says the artist.
Her distinctive style, with richly layered colors and bold strokes, suggests the absolute essence of the natural landscape. “My work has evolved over the years from realism to abstract impressionism. After getting sick from two environmental diseases years ago, I went from painting the technical detail of realistic landscape from my brain, to painting natural abstractions from my soul.
Swartz has gained national and international acclaim for her expansive body of work. “Susan shares my concern for the future of life on this planet. Each of her paintings richly illustrates the beauty of our world, from snow-covered slopes to rustic vineyards and country gardens…and she encourages us not only to experience and savor these images of nature, but also to do what we can to save nature itself,” says iconic conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.
J GO GALLERY
BY TARALEE GUILD: NATURE’S CATHEDRAL
Canadian Taralee Guild’s painting series entitled Nature’s Cathedral is based on impressions drawn from photographs of the temperate rain forests of British Columbia. J GO Gallery is the only gallery in the United States representing Guild, who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. “I chose to represent Taralee in part because of her incredible technical expertise and also because her work is so colorful and well executed,” says Jude Grenney, who owns the gallery. “Abstract landscapes are more about the emotional experience of nature than literal depictions of a specific place. Artists are not limited to recognizable landscapes; the genre encourages artistic license and is about capturing the spirit and feeling of the natural world,” Grenney explains.
“I was first motivated to create this body of work when I read the short story “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. I had my own epiphany when I realized that old growth forests were too like a cathedral interior because both use a combination of natural light, expanding space and shimmering color to create a feeling of elation and dematerialization in the viewer,” Guild explains.
Initially self-taught, using a paint box and easels inherited from her grandmother, Guild now holds a BFA degree from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. The artist works on several thematic series at once, each with its own ideological
context and geographical significance.
Park City’s elegant, diverse array of art galleries house an impressive sampling of abstract landscapes by both local and national artists.
by Steve Phillips