Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gallery Opening

Echoing church bells clang out five
End of work week ending the day.
Out they pour from shops and walls,
Work sites, to queue the pub bars,
Cash point, hole in the wall.

Daylight of children
Wide parliament tour
And museum wanderings.
With the setting of the sun
With the rising of the wind
I wandered old shop town shore front
Factory warehouses transformed.
Flowing tide climbing the stairs.
Old grain silo segmented homes.
Working harbour view. Side step
The head feeding night dark park.
Splashing beef blood red wine entry.
The newly moved gallery home.

And an exhibit of two young local artists was being opened at
the Colville Gallery. Still new to town, I thought it worthwhile
to investigate. And I am glad that I did.

Aquinas taught that art must have three elements to be
beautiful, Integritas, Consontia & Claritas. These are sometimes
defined as Wholeness, Harmony & Radiance. Wholeness and harmony
seem to be easily understood in relation to a work of art, and
it is Claritas - Radiance that is more problematic. Claritas
must be the ineffable and must refer to something internal
and organic being emitted from the work under consideration.

This construction seems however to lead us into a circle of
confusion. To be beautiful the work must radiate. But what
is to be radiated, and how? Maybe we can find a more easily
grasped concept in the works of the Victorian English critic
and oft named hedonist, Walter Horatio Pater. For in his
masterly work on the Renaissance, besides leading young men
astray, he used the concept of a 'lovely strangeness.' After
the storms and stresses of modernism, our age should not find
the idea of strangeness in art to be too confronting. Beauty,
after all, will be convulsive or it will not be at all.

In the works on display we can get an idea of both the
strangeness and the loveliness. The works of Matthew Armstrong
were all landscapes of our naturally artificial world. However
none contained any images of people, only the tatters and
droppings of humanity. All of his works were set in a twilight
atmosphere. These two facts worked to inspire a charming feeling
of wonderment in the viewer, raising questions rather than
offering boxed answers. Is this meant to be set in the rising of
dawn, or the passing of the day, does the lonely country road
beckon one forward with the sky glowing home fires of love and
affection, or does this road and this sky lead us into certain
oblivion? This allowing and encouraging the viewer to supply
elements to the work is to me an important element of any art.
For to tie up all the loose ends and offer up final denouement
is the work of a mind too caught up in the dominant bourgeois
shop keeper error, where all things fetter under a certain type
rational control and all stories come complete with closure.

Turning to the other wall, we see the works of Chris Bennett,
again a young local artist. Chris' work does not have the
metaphysical twilight blue palate of Matthew's work. But
his works equally emitted the lovely strangeness, were
equally concerned with light and tensions unresolved. In
contradistinction to Matthew's Chris' works all included human
figures, with most of his figures questioning the viewer. In
'The Lull' a couple sat together and ninety degrees apart in a
room lit by an external light. These paintings for the most part
were works of the inside, of humanity's built environments. In
'11PM' a questioning face appeared as an apparition from a
darkness vaguely reminiscent of Rembrandt shadowy world. The
'Indistinct Horizon' was almost a fugue in in black and
white, an individual sitting on a public bench looking over
an endless sea and sky pregnant with pure white nothingness,
while a silhouetted trash can turns into a possible momento
mori tombstone.

Both artists had very solid technique and understanding of
composition, so the elements of wholeness and harmony can
be easily seen, whether in the rich dark green detail of
the obscured row of plants in the foreground of Matthew's
painting 'The Domain', or in the slight and powerful blue
brush strokes touches on the bottom of the lamp post in the
'Indistinct Horizon'. The question than revolves around the
idea of claritas, which we see that both artists were able
to radiate a lovely strangeness, charming and compelling the
viewer to engage with the works on display.

In all I can only hope that both artists have long and fruitful
careers and I will look forward to seeing more such pieces.

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