Saturday Sept. 1st through Oct. 6th
Oxford Gallery will begin its new exhibition season with an exhibition entitled Byways. It features new work by area artists Darryl Abraham and Roland ("Chip") Stevens.
A reception for the artists is planned for Saturday, September 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. It is open to the public.
Artist, architect, sailor, historian, and traveler
Roland ("Chip") Stevens is a man of varied interests, many of which find expression in his remarkable watercolors. He has recently achieved national recognition working with a team of explorers to locate, identify, and graphically reconstruct the remains of ships that sank in Lake Ontario.
Stevens's watercolors, similarly, often find their subject in the sea or in coastal villages near the water. But the paintings of coastal areas are as much about the life of people in small rural communities as they are about the sea itself. In these rural depictions, the artist avoids the quaint or picturesque. His focus is, rather, upon the isolation and difficulty of life in remote places. And in truly "imitative form," Stevens's style is characterized by a sparseness of means.
With sections of the paper virtually unpainted, Chip's paintings call attention to their own efficiency, communicating the most visual information with the least means. The artist's use of the "negative" or unpainted portions of the paper is not mere minimalism but a working principle: it creates form, establishes the direction and intensity of light, and defines the relationships among pictorial planes. We must also feel that this spare method is one most appropriate for depicting a world lacking in excess or extravagance, where true value and meaning lay just below the drabness of a quotidian existence.
Sculptor, print maker, and painter
Having received an extensive formal education in art and having taught in several leading universities, Darryl Abraham is an artist for whom the "naïve" or "primitive" style is not a necessity. It is, for Abraham, a matter of choice and a style he has practiced throughout his long artistic career. Sculptor, print maker, and painter, Darryl never seems constrained by any decorum regarding the media in which he works. From various unorthodox materials, the artist often fashions what might best be described as "tableaux" in three dimensions, usually scenes of rural life. They show ordinary people involved in ordinary tasks. Their freedom of composition hearkens back to a state of youthful innocence: a sense of "play."
The same spirit pervades the artist's prints, drawings, and paintings. His etchings eschew the clean boundaries and fine registration of more "sophisticated" prints, and their subjects, such as song birds or trophy fish, are as hackneyed as their manner of presentation. They speak to an unaffected pleasure in simple things and gently mock our canons of taste in art.
And Abraham's watercolor paintings are scarcely "paintings" in any conventional sense of the term. Form here is defined entirely by line, and the line is simple and cursory. The images are flat, the only sense of volume or spatial recession being juxtaposition and scale, with scale usually out of all proportion. Color is laid in with a clear artificiality and often overlaps the boundaries of the drawn forms. The overall effect, once again, is to simulate the experience we all remember from our earliest attempts at representing something...
...And this speaks to a fundamental - perhaps the fundamental - aspect of "naïve" art. It aims not to realistically represent but to invoke, and what it invokes is a state of innocence. Amidst the complexities of our modern lives, it recalls to us a state where the world around us was immediate, tangible, and uncomplicated and where our response to it was one of joy and discovery.