Mysteries and More…

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Jane Salvin’s curatorial work at the Heritage Bank is always a presentation of art from accomplished professionals that makes the exhibitions worth a trip. In a deceptive space that seems unlikely to offer so much to see, the work goes on from the lobby to the inside of the bank, to the offices and conference rooms. The staff never seems unnerved by visitors wandering around looking at the art.

The 14th Aniversary Exhibition includes work by fifteen artists, many of whom show enough work to constitute a solo show. I was intrigued by a group of artists who create mysteries or whose concerns are the great mysteries of the macrocosm, the microcosm and the soul.

A detail from Younhee Paik’s Night Flight (Sail)

Younhee Paik’s canvases in the lobby entryway set a tone for the show. Large loosely hanging unstretched canvases evoke a great expanse of blue universe with spatters of white and gold, even red. Some are isolated flashes of light and some are great congregations of stellar light and gas in celestial nebulae. She calls these her ceiling paintings–intended to be hung like a sail or draped, arching across the ceiling, upside down. We are enveloped in the space she creates. It is beautiful, peaceful and awesome. A cathedral floor plan floats across the lower realms of Night-Flight Venus, like an enormous space station welcoming travelers to a safe haven somewhere between the known and the unknown.

St. Peter Sigtuna by Younhee Paik

In the nine-panel painting White Night, superimposed diagrams and graphs reference mere human attempts to understand, map and conquer this chaotic realm of mystery. Paik is a memorable painter of the great cosmic challenge beyond our planet.

White Night, multi-panel painting by Younhee paik

Harry Powers too, is drawn to the interplay of those intangible elements, light and darkness in the heavens. In his childhood in Idaho, he went with his father to see a Native American seasonal ceremony in front of a great fire and under the stars, and later went camping under those clear Northern skies. Since then, he has been compelled to investigate light and shadow in his art, and the study of history, cosmology and geology.

Harry Powers’ bronze Galileo Study

Shapes, patterns, and larger forms all spring from the observation of the many ways cultures record and ritualize their relationship to the cosmos. In sites like Kakadu National Park, Australia, Powers has found inspirational evidence of a primal relationship to the earth and heavens in the rock paintings of aboriginal people. In Florence, Italy, Powers discovered the original telescope of Galileo in a museum, along with other objects from his studio. Later he researched the notations and drawings of Galileo’s notebooks. From those first dim views out of a woefully inadequate telescope, a new, scientific relationship to the heavens was born. For Powers as well as most of the Western World, Galileo is a cultural hero. His insistence that “the stars don’t lie”, and that we revolve around the sun, demanded a willingness to endure the wrath of the power structure that revolved around the Roman Catholic Church. Modern science, and an ever increasing knowledge of the fascinating universe was born with his studies.

Powers’ Galileo Study and Galileo’s Mechanics are drawn from the diagrams in the Galileo notebooks. These small bronze pieces seem to take a flat page, and allowing the effects of gravity, rotation, light, movement and time to work their magic, the page arcs, bends, transforms into molten planetary material or three-dimensional theory. Each work is tattooed or scarified with notations that have become, for Powers, like Aboriginal markings of cultural history merged with personal history.

Harry Powers’ Fragment of a Love Song

In Fragment of a Love Song, Powers is a romantic, once again, imagining the Australian aboriginal youth on his “walkabout” of the Outback. He sleeps under the stars, dreams of his family, home and a girl.

The paintings of Lynn Powers are explorations of the mysteries of the human mind and psyche, and how it reaches out to connect with a larger reality. Her influences and image sources may spring from dreams or meditation, or simply imagination and intuition. Many of her paintings reflect a belief in an inherent harmony and beauty that is fundamental to the universe. Her abstract surfaces, carefully prepared, are patterns, fluid transitions of value, and mostly subtle colors. The influence of Asian philosophy can be seen in her repeated reference to the lotus. Even her colors and paint treatment seem to pay homage to something ancient and unchanging that originates in the East. Often she communicates her sensibilities through the most delicate and atmospheric treatment of geometry: spheres, spirals and horizontal or vertical bands suggest essential forms of being, an eternal movement, and balanced or static states. Her glyph-like marks may speak to the very few words or sounds that have a resonance throughout time and transcend human dialects and languages that come and go.

Behind the Waterfall by Lynn Powers

In Powers’ Behind the Waterfall, a tsunami-like wave is churning up ancient but simple sea creatures. An incomplete circular movement arcs above in a gray sky of spatters and splashes. In the great cycles of destruction and regeneration that are repeated throughout time, it is probably not the most specialized creatures that survive, but the most primitive.

Lynn Powers’ A Single Dream

A Single Dream, another painitng by Lynn Powers, is equally startling. A large blue circular outline in the foreground of the painting intersects the peaceful and symbolically contemplative pond with its lotus blossoms that constitute a horizon. From the dark smoke-filled sky a great fiery orb descends bearing a message that probably cannot be interpreted, at least not by us.

Greg Wulf characterizes himself as the eternal student, particularly drawn to art history and Asian philosophy, and lured by the relics of Hindu and Buddhist culture. Wulf has been strongly influenced by his travels in Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and India. He is enchanted with tantric models of geometric abstraction, a pursuit of “oneness with the other”, and “a bridge to higher consciouness” perhaps to be found in the act of painting. In Kipling’s Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, he sees that fearful symmetry between mortals and the gods, and in Mondrian, the dynamic equilibrium that distills the essence.

Greg Wulf’s painting, Tiger Bright

As a painter, Wulf has progressively moved away from the figurative to abstraction. To the viewer, his consummate skill with the brush and paint are a viewing pleasure whether one recognizes the remnants of the figure, the symmetry of a vessel, or not. For Wulf himself, the most important realization is that something sacred has been touched when his forms achieve a rhythmic unity and balance that feels true to his subject. Tiger Bright glows with enormous yet restrained power. Green Buddha has the rhythmic repetition of a temple of endless Buddhas, with one transparent green Buddha in the center.

Greg Wulf’s Green Buddha

Luis Gutierrez is an abstract painter, as well. His work does not necessarily address the mysteries of life and the spirit, but still seeks essences within the mundane. Within such subjects as flowers, thistles and weeds, hurricane Katrina, standing figures and body parts, or a lost cat, Gutierrez works in series and, nevertheless, looks to capture a most fundamental shape or gesture.

Dark Flower by Luis Gutierrez and Foot (above)

At one time Gutierrez worked in oil on large colrful canvases. Recently his work has gotten smaller and tended more toward black and white. The series seen at Heritage Bank are ink or acrylic on paper. In their stark graphics there is sometimes great delicacy and occasionally surprising boldness. They embody an existential attraction.

Basketball Court by Wayne Jiang

The absence of human references and figures is truly felt in the paintings of Wayne Jiang. Most of Jiang’s paintings are nightscapes, intimate in scale. The city he observes and paints is friendly, the light warm. Lights in windows, light in the streets, lights on the horizon all speak to human activity going on behind walls or just out of sight and reach. As the observer, we are alone on the outside. The space is a bit dreamlike in that something is there but we cannot quite reach it. Perhaps the long shadows are some sort of link to life.

Rear Window by Wayne Jiang

Rear Window is a tantalizing view of a three-panel window sequence where a small gap in the semi-opaque curtains reveals part of a lit chandelier. Through the fabric itself, only the top of a wooden chair can be discerned. Another painting, Moving Day, is an empty room seen in daylight. Only a cleaning bucket and curtains put the viewer in touch with the life that just occupied the room, and has now left. A long light stream coming from the outside and entering through the screen door leads us in the direction of the human presence that has passed through.

Wayne Jiang’s Moving Day

The 14th Anniversary Exhibition also offers intriguing work by Jane Rosen, Linda Toeniskoetter, Stephanie Peek, Barbara Gunther, Ulla de Larios, Ken Matsumoto, Sharon Chinen, and Jimin Lee.

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