Total Arts Gallery, May 22-June 14
This story was featured in the May 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Total Arts Gallery unites two distinct yet complementary talents this month as it hangs a collection of new paintings by Ken Elliott and Kim English. The two-person show, which features 15 oil paintings from each artist, opens on Friday, May 22. A reception for the artists takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. that night. The show marks the first time Elliott’s visionary landscapes and English’s light-infused narratives have been shown together.
Total Arts Gallery director Harold Geller chose to pair works by Elliott and English after discovering one dynamic that links them aesthetically. “In spite of their divergent techniques and subject matter, they both display a similar approach to the handling of color and light,” he explains. “I think people will really enjoy the combination.”
“I love the landscape and its infinite variables,” remarks Elliott, whose paintings illuminate the landscape of his imagination more than they represent a straightforward portrait of nature. Although his paintings loosely reference photographs and plein-air sketches, they refuse to exist within the confines of already-prescribed images. Rather, they stand independent of any specific place or time, the fulfilled pursuits of the artist’s visual and intellectual explorations. Elliott wields color boldly, creating sizzling, vibrant shapes that are at once kinetic and placid, grounded in unifying illumination, and focused compositions. He has a fascination with line structure as well, believing that “edges empower colors.”
Elliott fully mines his techniques and motifs by working on several pieces at once. “They feed each other,” he says, explaining that, for him, elements of one painting can readily spur new ideas for or solve challenges with another nearby canvas. Ultimately, his chief concern is to create compelling pieces that are accessible to viewers on every level. “If I’m excited, the viewer will be, too,” he says.
Interested in extracting the inherent beauty from scenes of the everyday, English brings his narratives to life through a deft manipulation of light and shadow. Whether depicting a bustling street scene, a quiet interior, or an austere portrait, English employs nuanced highlights and contrasts to create a definable atmosphere within the picture plane. “I like light,” says the artist, “and I’m always looking for the way it describes our world.” Thus, his paintings become adroit studies in the way light surrounds and defines—either through subtle, delicate gradations or more dramatic contrasts.
English divides his painting time between the outdoors and his studio, always working alla prima, completing each piece in one sitting. “Immediacy is important,” he says. “Not only because it is often the nature of people, but for me, it is the most instinctive way to paint.” To that end, his paintings boast loose, expressive brushwork, which lends an element of tactility while also evoking that sense of spontaneity he craves.
Anticipating a standout exhibition, Geller says, “We are looking forward to a rather exciting show of two artists with divergent techniques who really complement each other. Both artists are in their primes and have cultivated strong followings.” The show runs through June 14. —Elizabeth L. Delaney
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