Four Painters Giving the Art World a Fresh Coat
Painters today face the challenge of offering their unique voices by means of a traditional medium. Four artists are invigorating painting with works that utilise tradition toward innovation, pushing canvases and audiences into exciting new territory.
Toronto-based artist Thrush Holmes is best known for his audacious style, often incorporating neon lights over rudimental multimedia still lifes. At 38 years old, he has landed 10 international solo exhibitions in the past 5 years, recently showing at Allouche Gallery in Chelsea, New York and at BEERS London. After closing his large public studio Thrush Holmes Empire in 2011, Holmes now works privately on his always sizeable, illuminated canvases. The attitude of sweeping lines exaggerated by the blaze of neon produces an alluring dissonance that has become the artist’s signature. Combining saturated palettes in oil, spray paint, collage, and more along with a Naïve experimental approach make for unabashedly textural experiences reflecting, as Holmes describes, his “affection for mistakes and failure.”
32-year-old Caroline Larsen, another Toronto-born painter now based in Brooklyn, brings impasto to new levels of visual intrigue. Her mid-size canvases are a nod to the traditionally feminine arts of weaving and flower still lifes, but her fresh technique is entirely her own. Larsen meticulously dispenses oil paint through icing tubes with different nibs, creating the illusion of thickly woven tapestries. The kitschy effect that results adds homemade charm to domestic and floral representations while it affords a witty pixelated convolution to scenes of burning cars. Regardless of subject, these thick ribbons of paint in bright hues create such lush tactility as to captivate viewers in Larsen’s inventive process. Larsen’s paintings have recently been displayed at The Hole, New York and Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv, bringing vibrant originality to a growing international audience.
Jannis Varelas fashions large-scale canvases into colourful abstract works that burst with movement. The Greek artist paintings have been shown at James Fuentes Gallery, New York, The Breeder gallery, Athens and Frieze New York and are inspired by the expressive drawings of young people with ADHD. Varelas seeks to channel a similar automatic raw creativity in his studios in Athens, Los Angeles, and Vienna. He frequently merges patches of primary-coloured oil paint with imagery and scratchings reminiscent of the kind of illustrations made by children. As more and more artists move through art school, Varelas explains, exploring one’s art through the process of playful unsophistication is more important than ever. Varelas reinvigorates the in-your-face ignorant impact of artists that precede him, painting with a simultaneously frenzied and innocent energy. His canvases are rich with imagination bound to inspire painters to come.
Jonathan Chapline is from Waco, Texas and works currently in Brooklyn, New York. Being the youngest artist of the four—30 years old—his works are arguably the most stylistically cutting-edge. Though he employs traditional oil painting technique, he uses those analogue skills to depict still life and domestic settings of various sizes as though they were digitally rendered. To do this, Chapline starts with a bright background that imparts his paintings with a cool glow similar to that of a cell phone. He then fashions blocky forms to resemble early computer graphics by giving them sharp edges overstated with stark shadows. Taking the kind of imagery that might strike most as mundane, perhaps even crude, he is able to transform it into scenes saturated as much with colour as with sultry mood. Chapline’s tromp l’oeil have been on view at The Hole, New York, Victori + Mo, Brooklyn, and BEERS London. With impeccable composition and colour, the artist’s moonlit quasi-realism holds fascination for viewers coming from either side of the digital age.
Words by Michelle Costanza.