Emerging Artists | Tyler Swain

Tyler Swain, Red Cluster, oil, 18 x 24.

Tyler Swain, Red Cluster, oil, 18 x 24.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

It takes just one sweeping look through Tyler Swain’s oeuvre of still-life paintings to recognize that the Utah artist celebrates beauty in simplicity, and nature offers up some of his best models in that department. And yet, while a halved avocado, cluster of grapes, or single rosebud might appear simple on first glance, Swain notes that each subject displays unique intricacies, too, as well as organic imperfections like worm holes, bumps, and scars that bring further character. “There is plenty of complexity within one object,” he says. “Viewers realize that an apple is so pretty, or an old leaf can be beautiful, too.”

Although Swain is a classically trained artist, his contemporary realist approach to painting allows him to take certain liberties. “In art school you’re told, ‘Don’t put things in the middle,’ so I went and put everything in the middle of the composition,” he chuckles. The technique, which harkens back to religious iconography, places Swain’s subjects exactly where he wants them: in the limelight. “You can make a simple object seem sacred or spiritually moving simply by putting it in the center of the canvas, like an icon,” he explains.

In the unembellished margins of his paintings, Swain creates “elements of distress” by layering gesso and modeling paste on his surfaces with squeegees and other tools. “I really like to render my subjects clean and tight, but there’s something inside us that resonates with imperfections in a finished work,” he says. “When we see order with chaos in the same image, it’s like adding salt to cookie dough. There is a little dissidence, and that makes it that much richer.”

Find Swain’s work at Convergence Gallery, Santa Fe, NM; Jessup Cellars Gallery, Yountville, CA; Peterson Roth Gallery, Bend, OR; 15th Street Gallery, Salt Lake City, UT; and FourSquare Art, Mesa, AZ.

This story was featured in the January 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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