These days it's a cherry on top when a conceptual artist has impeccable technical skills, and is able to play with various painting tools to alter the viewer's state of mind. Artist Brad Kunkle has this ability. There is quite a lot going on beneath the surface in each of his luscious paintings. He purposely uses a limited palette and overcast light source to flatten his imagery. It’s a trick painters use - both colour and light are elements in painting, which can be used to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. Yet his works depict a wonderfully rich depth and motion. His use of contrast, gesture and composition guide the viewer’s eye and emotions through his impossible landscapes.
There is a great catharsis in Chris Mars’ dark paintings. Read any interview with him and you’ll read about how the plight of his brother’s struggles with schizophrenia spurned the subject matter of his paintings. His concern for his brother Joe’s well-being, as well as the concern he has for others in need, translates powerfully and magically, speaking out for those who can’t. The attention his paintings attract bring awareness to what Joe and others have been through, which is monumentally important.
It is impossible to capture in a few brief sentences the immensity of what Laurie Lipton achieves in her art. Her work is excruciatingly detailed and complex, and nothing in it is to be taken for granted: let your eyes pass lightly over a gown, for example, and you’ll miss that the trim is made of tiny skulls. Lipton’s dedication to drawing has yielded skills that alone are reason to rejoice in her work. But that would by far shortchange the impact of her unflinching commentary on the complexities of modern life, both in society at large and for individuals.
To look upon the work of Christian Rex van Minnen is to imagine oneself walking down the cool, damp halls of a forgotten laboratory in the country: his paintings are part Old Masters, part mad scientist, part carnival. Classical still life and portraiture are reimagined with sumptuous beauty that paradoxically can be hard to look at. But it is van Minnen’s masterful technique and eye that draw the viewer again to consider that which looks impossible.
Do you shut your eyes during a scary movie? Or do you rewind, watch the bloodcurdling scene again, put the poster of that unnameable horror up on your bedroom wall and live with it? To react predictably one would recoil, but if you listen to the clicking claws and dripping venom and do not shut your eyes, you have the opportunity to examine the phenomenal. Chet Zar’s favorite subjects are those who we run to avoid. His works combine an awareness of the outsider with the skills of a traditional artist. Awakening the viewer to flight and delight, Zar gives authority to his subconscious by painting the most unconventional of portraits, those of monsters.