“Diaspora/Miasma” at Marta Hewitt Gallery

May 17th, 2012  |  Published in May 2012, On View

Dichotomy and paradox often create the tension in representational artwork, taking us beyond the visual depictions in the work and tapping into our visceral connections. And so it is with the exhibit “Diaspora/Miasma” on exhibit at Marta Hewett Gallery March 30 through  May 19th.  Both Kevin Veara and Eoin Breadon have brought us to awareness of cultural  implications that reach well beyond our immediate environs or timeline.

Kevin Veara, Miasma #28, Acryllic on wood panel

Kevin Veara

In Veara’s work, the visual elements range from bold to subtle, but never happenstance. The complexity of subject matter, shapes, hue and  detail create a depth of visual interest that can unearth layers of meaning and curiosity within the viewer. As explicit as the representation in these works, they also impel my curious nature to rise in response, first scripting questions of the artist, then the deeper questions for my own mind and heart.

Veara paints subject matter that he knows, and knows well. The literal representations are birds. As I looked around the gallery, the birds in these paintings seemed rendered from fantasy, with bright colors and striations of feathers jumping off the substrate, sometimes taking on minimalist impressions of color blocks or patterns visually disembodied from the species and genus. Being less familiar with these varieties of avians, I did not know that they were actual American species of birds from around the U.S., their colors so brilliant in such fantastic avian compositions as to appear only possible in manipulated renderings.

The birds often seem captured mid-air in the act of hunting prey and sustenance, frequently appearing to tumble from the sky in headlong pursuit of the next meal, or in survival, or appearing to find itself in the struggle of a tragic demise. At the same time, they could possibly be attempting to free themselves from the gnarly vines and elaborate flora that frequently surround the birds. In either case, their innate elegance is depicted with adoration, assuming the iconographic significance of a Darwinian or heavenly religion.

These vines and plants concurrently appear to be caressing the birds and perhaps entangling them. The flora includes vines that have menacing barbed-wire like thorns grazing through the birds’ delicate feathers, and vines of curlicues and breathtaking, elaborate flowers that seem drawn from the cloth of Veara’s imagination.

The obsessive, almost horror-vacuum detail with which Veara imbues each painting allows the viewer to be engrossed by the richness of color, shape, and pattern, as well. Looking closely, nose within inches, the patterns laid into each feather, each twist of the vine, each stamen of flower become animated with the energy of the artist. Though this may not be my idea of nirvana, it appears this process is far from a burden for Veara, and I can almost feel his excitement, enjoyment, perhaps meditative bliss as he lays down each stroke that builds to the crescendo of a completed composition.

These vines, “plants” and flowers contain many of the questions that Veara is offering. In a world of chemical and genetic alteration manipulated by the human species, how is the resulting environment affecting a microcosm of fauna like birds? Knowing that their habitat has changed so much in the past decades, can we imagine the implications and science fiction-like possibilities that could entangle them in the future? What is my role in this evolution?

The title of this exhibit is “Miasma,” in reference to the term historically used to attribute widespread afflictions on an unknown gas, such as in the case of the plague. Though the intellectual processing of that term within this exhibit is not a reach, the works that result from his efforts rise above the message with visual gifts that celebrate the aesthetics of a complex world.

Eoin Breadon, Fourth Transformation of Tuan, Blown glass

Eoin Breadon

The works in glass from Eoin Breadon’s “Diaspora” exhibit are equally imbued with pattern and form. As a canvas of color and light, the glass evokes an ephemeral quality that speaks of the fragile nature of Breadon’s narrative subject.

As a visual delicacy in the exhibit, the fluid nature of the glass is subdued by the classical format of the Celtic patterns deeply sandblasted into the surface. This technique creates line and pattern, as well as rendering the shell of pristine art glass as vulnerable, subject to the artist’s intentions of communication.

Many of the works show the results of the fluid and spontaneous process of glass blowing and manipulation, requiring unhurried study to fully appreciate these pieces. Many of the pieces have subtle undulations and abstract characterizations that lie beneath the sandblasted patterns.  The patterns seem to lend a stamp of formality to the forms, creating an illusion of symmetry. It is the asymmetry of the stylized form beneath the patterns that bring these pieces to life.

The title of the exhibit refers to the cultural dispersal that occurs in the process of emigration. As cultural heritage encounters other worlds, it can find those who are willing to record that heritage as a talisman, or they unintentionally allow it to slip from the vernacular while adopting the newfound tradition of emerging environs.

Highly intentional layers of color within the glass become the canvas for duality in both message and image. The added bonus from glass as the medium is the luminous quality that each piece acquires as light fills them with a glow indigenous to each color, size, depth, and technique. This luminous attribute contributes a timeless and other-worldly quality to the exhibit, while lending an air of “historic relic” that references the artist’s intent as preservationist of Celtic culture.

After being immersed in the singular atmosphere of this two-artist exhibit, the commonality of precise detail in representation of biomorphic elegance ties this show together, while visually bridging the mythical and the fantastic.

–Larry Watson

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