Organic Connections: A review of Winter Exhibition: Chesley, Williams, Wimberly, Yaghjian, on display at Gallery 80808 through Feb. 5.
By Mary Bentz Gilkerson
Place, space and time. A whole multitude of things communicate a deep sense of place. An image can evoke a range of sensory responses from the odor of a murky pond on a hot summer day to the feel of the sun on bare skin on suddenly hot fall afternoons.
Visiting the annual winter exhibition of work by Stephen Chesley, Mike Williams, Ed Wimberly and David Yaghjian is as evocative of place as sitting on the porch in a rocking chair with a glass of tea. All four artists are keen observers of the world around them, adept at standing apart a bit, absorbing it and returning it in visual form.
This is the third year for the group's show at Gallery 80808 in the Vista Studios. The first group show, during the December 2001 holiday season, included Chesley, Williams and Wimberly. The second show in January 2003 brought Yaghjian into the group. According to Williams, the members of the group have coalesced on the basis of professional and personal affinity for each other.
Williams highlights one of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit the group factor. In what ways are artists influenced by working with other artists? What ties a group of artists together besides friendship? How does that friendship spill over onto the canvas?
All too often, group exhibits are put together by curators albeit sympathetic curators who are looking for connections, sometimes to the point of creating or manufacturing them. In this case, those connections have had the chance to grow in an organic way and have an impact on the development of each member of the group.
All four artists are colorists, using pigment to translate the ephemeral effects of light falling across surfaces. Williams shows some of his best work yet in several smaller pieces that use multiple layers of transparent paint to convey the depth of water under reflecting and refracting light. In Lake at Night, a small square piece whose size belies its impact, he creates a moody waterscape over which light and color move in a flickering dance across the canvas.
Yaghjian also follows the movement of light across the landscape, but in his case it falls predominantly on the urban buildings that describe the life a city. The color in his paintings comes both from the angle of the light, particular to the time of year and weather, and from the interplay of that light with the local color of the flat architectural planes. In Two Notch/Gervais, he lights up the typical Southern urban scene with the warm light of a fall afternoon. The banality of the subject matter disappears in the flood of light and color.
Stephen Chesley is particularly known for his solitary landscape paintings. Here, he takes his fascination with the drama of light into printmaking with a series of small intaglio prints. Hurricane, Tidal Surge plots the ongoing conflict between the forces of nature, earth and wind with the solitary tree caught between. In Tree, Slight Hill the drama is more subtle. The quiet isolation of the lone dark tree against the bleached sky is contemplative rather than dramatic.
Wimberly shows both his familiar work, which uses everyday objects in unfamiliar situations like an overstuffed armchair bursting into flower in Budding Out as well as several pieces that move in a new direction. Abelard and Heloise is an open-ended painting that contrasts a solidly defined female figure with a male figure that dissolves into multiple outlines of a moving form.
Light, surface and color are important to all four artists, but each artist invites the viewer to confront a kind of existentialist dilemma different from the traditional modernist man versus urban life. It's the new/old dilemma of the relationship of nature and humanity.