Monday, September 15, 2008

Fracture #4

pastel and charcoal on paper, 40" x 32"
Private Collection
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Over time the objects in the still life series begun that summer became progressively less literal. I was not as interested in just rendering the objects and more involved in trying to use these vessel forms as metaphors. For what, exactly, I couldn't say but I had a growing feeling that the way I thought about and painted these simple objects could hopefully make them stand-in for a whole range of experience and emotions.

This raku vessel was made by my friend Tom Dimond and was one of our treasured possessions. When it was accidentally broken, I felt awful. But I had to admit I was fascinated with the look of the broken form. It led to painting after painting. In this one, it seemed interesting to turn the vessel in such a way that at a glance it appeared whole, then lay the pieces out almost like evidence.

A Night of Snow in the Mountains

Oil on canvas, 29 1/2" x 74", 1986
Private Collection

In my first still life, "Things That Are Blue" there was something very compelling to me in the straightforward placement of objects side by side. I began using repetition as a design element. I felt it spoke to notions of movement and the passage of time.

What Will We Do When
This Story's Over?

Acrylic on canvas, 79" x 61", 1995
Email me for purchase information

In this painting perhaps the vessels could be human forms. Or perhaps not. I was growing more comfortable with ambiguity. In fact, it was something to be desired. Things didn't have to add up or make sense. It was better when the paintings weren't required to reach conclusions, tell stories, teach lessons, be so sure of themselves. The ambiguous seemed a more accurate reflection of my experience in this wondrous, mysterious world.

Different Times, Different Days

Acrylic on board, 48" x 96", 1986
Collection University of Washington
Health Sciences Center

The observation shifted from external to internal. Lip service was paid to the objects, but the paintings were really about painting. It was fun orchestrating color and shape in these large-scale works. There were no pre-determined goals. I stopped when the painting seemed to arrive somewhere. Sometimes no one was more surprised than I at what resulted.


Jean Victory said...

Beautiful work Don! My favorite is Fracture #4 but I also liked Things That Are Blue. Wow, you should paint more still lifes.

Don Gray said...

Thanks a lot, Jean.

Anonymous said...

Although I love your nature paintings, these still life ones are wonderful, too. I enjoy the ambiguity and haunting emotional resonance of this less representational work.
Anne Thrower

Don Gray said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Anne.