(Hope and Pain from the Holiday Exhibition)
by Kendall Berents
The holiday exhibition at the Linda Matney Art Gallery is a spectacle of contrasts. From loud colors to muted palettes; sharp edges to blurred lines; big paintings to small sculptures, each piece speaks for itself. Combining the textured, dramatic work of Kent Knowles with Anil Thambai’s precise, Indian depictions, I found myself questioning the depths of the human soul. I sat in the back of the Linda Matney Art Gallery, gazing at a wall of three contrasting images, wondering why a horse, an elephant, and a mirror could evoke such strong responses. I felt moved. Pained, even. The paintings were full of contrasting brush strokes and mysterious musings, thematically placed to pose a universal longing. A single display of artwork has never caused me such simultaneous joy and anguish.
Kent Knowles painted the two outside pieces, employing his usual, grandiose brush strokes to depict textured images. “Sway” shows a horse standing on a hill, arching his snout towards a centaur and a woman walking side-by-side. Knowles was careful to eliminate personal details, instead focusing on bright colors and repeated shapes, setting his figures on a field of multi-colored squares. At first, I ignored this image, finding it much more mythical and experimental than the rest of his work. It wasn’t as jolly or cartoon-like as some of his other paintings – images where he focuses on nothing but faces, creating a whole story through eyes and mouths. Here, he was telling a different kind of story. A story about mythology. About human-animal interaction. About procreation and harmony, as if he was depicting the meaning of life itself.
While “Sway” left me pleasantly confused, his other painting left me stunned. I couldn’t forget the image for days afterwards. Titled “Reflector,” Knowles placed a girl slumped over on her bed, looking into a mirror on her left. She is clothed in nothing but underwear, facing her back to the viewer in a posture of shame. Across the room sits a black, ghost-like figure, staring at her through two peepholes in his costume. It is a creepy and haunting depiction, as if this girl is trapped in her bedroom with a robber. But his hands are clasped in front of him, showing a sign of surrender. He is not trying to hurt her. Still, the girl appears pained. I viewed the image, I cringed, and I walked away. I came back to the image, I stared, and I began to feel more shame than fear. The image is meant to replicate the emotions of the girl, not the masked intruder. My mind was eased. Disturbed, but eased. And then I noticed the girl’s reflection. The mirror is the key to unlocking Knowles mystery. Themed around insecurity and body image, Knowles’ painting deals with the visual disgust of the human reflection.
Between Knowles philosophical paintings, Anil Thambai’s colorful masterpiece held a similar longing with a sharply different colorful palette. “From Bombay to Thane” is a finely painted, adventurous piece that acknowledges the rich history and mythology of Indian culture. An elephant swims through the middle of a yellow river as a train moves in the opposite direction, past a vast, blue mountain illuminated by a stream of sunlight and a bolt of lightning. The image is stunning. With carefully drawn trees displayed across the foreground, Thambai’s mixed media creates a finely crafted, detailed story that continues to unfold upon further reflection. With its placement between Knowles pieces, Thambai’s image is the crux of thematic longing. The elephant is swimming towards something – towards the lightning on the other side of the mountain – but the train is moving in the opposite direction, towards the sunlight. The painting itself is a contrast between harmony and pain, illuminating the power of choice.
Accompanied by Jason Lowry’s contemporary sculptures, Martha Jones’ bubble-gum hued oil paintings, Jeff Surrace’s bright realism, and Teddy Johnson’s historical renderings, the visual contrasts within Linda Matney’s Holiday Exhibition gave me hopeful musings about the human condition. There is something displayed for every taste and style. Something to make you think, something to make you uncomfortable, and something to make you stunned. While I found the back wall incredibly contemplative, many other paintings revealed equally beautiful thought and artistic detail. The type of detail that left me thinking about the dual natures of hope and pain, and their specific interpretations among both artwork and personal experience.
Works in the Holiday Exhibit by our represented artists are available via our art brokerage business year round- See slideshow below:
Represented artists in the Holiday Exhibit:
Martha Jones, Kent Knowles, Teddy Johnson, Kristen Lied, Sofia Zu'bi, Nina Barnes, Jeff Surace, Paul Light Jr., Michael Suter, Jayson Lowery, Anil Thambai, Dana Jo Cooley, Tom Francis, Wade Mickley and others