By Laura Jackson
Art has the power to reach audiences in a way that words cannot.
Communicating through a language of color, line and form, abstract artists are not even bound by the need to create realistic representations of their subject. The intrigue of modern abstract art comes with the viewer’s ability to participate in the process. It’s not about what it’s supposed to look like, but rather how it makes you feel, and how you interpret the raw emotion behind an artist’s work.
Expressing Artistic Freedom
Gallery Mar, Michael Kessler
Part of understanding an ever-growing fascination with modern abstract art involves getting just a glimpse of what goes into the creative process. Always exploring the boundaries of his medium, each of Kessler’s pieces consists of as many as 50 micro-thin layers of translucent and transparent acrylic paint, adding up to an amazing array of textures and colors. “Through the language of abstract art, I’m trying to convey the kind of awe-inspiring and rejuvenating feeling nature provides best,” said Kessler. Using warm, welcoming earth tones, Kessler invites viewers to envision organic elements such as mountains, rivers and sky, all within the framework of captivating geometric designs. He describes his artistic expression as a painterly “tai-chi” creating lines of energy and transformation.
Mountain Trails Gallery, Gary Ernest Smith
Using striking form and color to show beauty in the fundamental simplicity of his subjects, Smith draws upon the values of discipline and self-reliance he learned growing up in a rural farm community, as well as a deep respect for his natural surroundings. Smith explains how bold form and color, “melds the style and subject into a symbolic visual language…” Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springville Museum of Art, describes this accomplished Utah artist as “constantly seeking his ends through stylistic experiment.”
Smith believes, “…art is a constant struggle for the new insight, for the more effective technique. It is as changing and evolving as life itself. To unite humanity with the earth through art is like combining the body with the spirit.”
Revealing a Colorful Vocabulary
Thomas Anthony Gallery, Carrie Fell
Using the multiple mediums of watercolor, acrylic and oil, Fell’s use of vibrant color and enchanting, fluid brush strokes creates an almost magnetic pull on her viewers. She then magically draws you into her pulsating language of color. Fell describes the “New West” she depicts in her paintings as a “state of mind” and a place of changes with an attitude of boldness and energy. Her paintings feature traditional icons of the Old West, but with a refreshingly modern and abstract twist, alongside fascinating, happy color that seems to know no bounds.
Coda Gallery, Mark Bowles
“My heart is always pushing my work to find new language in expressing what I see and how I feel about it,” said Bowles. “It is my goal to draw the viewer into my space and let them become involved in their own personal journey and discovery of the work. The ultimate reward for me is to communicate something new to the viewer, even if for just a moment in time.” A quick gaze into his warm, expressive paintings seems far too short, leaving viewers wanting to linger and contemplate his use of rich, luminous color and soothing composition.
Joining the Conversation
JGO Gallery, Krista Harris
Harris believes, “Not being bound by any realistic representation or replication allows the artist to create their own language for communicating dreams, ideas, fears and hopes. It also requires something of the viewer… interpretation, feeling, contemplation.” Harris has roots in the abstract expressionist tradition, yet embraces her own unique style allowing shapes and lines to mystically come in and out of focus in her paintings. She uses luscious color and texture while her forms appear to dance across the canvas in what she describes as “subtle imagery whispering beneath the surface.”
Julie Nester Gallery, Betty Merken
Abstract art allows the viewer to write, not just complete the narrative. Merken explains, “As a non-serial abstract painter, my work can result in strikingly different moods and meanings, with each painting becoming an entire story, or world unto itself.” All art presents the opportunity for a viewer to fill in the blanks, and to interpret an artist’s meaning and purpose, but with abstract art this becomes even more important. Using bold color, inspired texture and ever-changing form, Merken describes her process, “I am attempting to coax poetry from paint, to transform my materials into metaphor.”
Articulating Symbols of Emotion
Terzian Galleries, Downs
Only four to five hundred painted layers later, all characterized by varying degrees of thickness and transparency, does Downs reveal his energized art surfaces. “By working and reworking surfaces,
I expose the varying depth of color which creates spaces that expand and contract, communicating the work’s shifting moods,” said Downs.
As brightly colored shapes appear to jump off the canvas, his paintings beautifully balance their spirited color and lively form. Downs’ use of almost infinite layers of paint pushes the limits of possibility for his medium and reveals his deep emotional connection to his artistic process.
Silver Queen Fine Art, Levi Matheson
Just as music is an arrangement of particular sounds in time, governed by the rules of scales, keys and composition, art is similarly a unique combination of line, form and color in space. It’s not uncommon for abstract visual artists to incorporate their love of music into their art. Local Silver Queen artist Levi Matheson plays piano, saxophone and cello, as well as creating fascinating abstract art pieces. Using a self-created resin painting technique, he is able to suspend his pigment to create an unusual and appealing translucence in his works, as well as a fluidity and melodic character to match his musical talents. “When I am creating a work, I always listen to music and try to incorporate the harmony and tones into the work itself,” said Matheson.
Meyer Gallery, Andrew Ballstaedt
Ballstaedt describes how he is inspired by the ancient cartographers of the 16th century who created detailed maps with oceans, fortress cities on hills and directions leading to faraway, dreamy destinations. Not unlike abstract art, he believes these intricate maps often offered more mystery, intrigue and promise than the actual destination itself. Ballstaedt explains, “I use painting as a form of ritual and meditation where I often spend lots of time painting and repeating simple marks over and over again.” One look at his rhythmic use of dazzling color and design, and it comes as no surprise that Ballstaedt also enjoys writing his own music and lyrics.
Seeing the Forest Before the Trees
One of the first emotions elicited from even a momentary glance at one of Swartz’s dynamic paintings is a true sense of wonder and awe in nature. Underlying her passionate brush strokes and brilliant colors, it’s easy to see that for Swartz, the unified meaning of the whole will always mean more than the mere sum of its parts. Her abstract approach to painting possesses a refreshing ability to create a spiritual experience for the viewer, as it concentrates on capturing the essence of nature’s beauty, before focusing on its form. After a decade-long struggle with mercury poisoning and Lyme disease, her passion for painting, as well as for preserving the beauty of natural landscapes, intensified and continues to remain at the forefront of her work, as both artist and activist.
Willie Holdman Photographs
Holdman understands that like a pencil or a painter’s bush, a camera can also be used as a medium for unique visual expression. Creating compelling abstract photographs on a glossy metallic surface, he explains, “Nature is often about color, form and texture. These images are those moments in time where it’s not necessarily the whole big picture that speaks to me, but something on a different sphere where fantasy meets reality.”
Art Without Boundaries
Park City Fine Art, Malcolm Furlow
Using electrifying colors and captivating color contrasts, Furlow constructs inspiring abstract paintings focusing on the American Southwest. Although all of his acrylic paintings are inspired by his own earthy experience of life in the great outdoors, his hallmark is to create dream-like images that both delight and engage his audience. Regarding his expressive painting style, Furlow said, “I knew I wanted to say it with color because that’s the emotion of it. Ive got to make the viewer feel what I feel.”
Old Towne Gallery, Wassily Kandinsky
It’s a welcome surprise to many visitors and locals alike to learn that right here in Park City, among many other amazing contemporary abstract artists, you can also find a work of Wassily
Kandinsky at Old Towne Gallery.
Considered a founding father of modern abstract art, the Russian painter and art theorist Kandinsky altered the entire contemporary artistic language at the start of the 20th century. His art and teachings were instrumental in bringing acceptance and recognition to the world of abstract art.
“The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul.”