I think it’s very interesting that France, a nation hit by more terrorism than either the United States or Britain, and with far more muslim immigrants than either, has chosen to look outward, while the other two have taken an isolationist turn. Of course the French are concerned about both issues, but having spent two years of my life in France, I can tell you that the election of Macron is primarily the result of French education, intellectualism and their philosophical bent.
We can deride French socialism, but the French have once again proven, despite their failings and problems, that they support living in a country that does more than give lip service to a cohesive structure. It’s why they have national healthcare, free universities, free childcare, everyone gets four weeks of vacation and there is a 35 hours work week. It’s why they are one of the most productive nations too.
Yes, they pay a huge amount in taxes and they don’t like this and there are plenty of problems. But the French have always claimed “Liberty, Fraternity and Equality”. Yesterday they proved their motto has bite and they aren’t willing to blame all their problems on outsiders nor shut themselves off from the world, and this despite Islamic terrorism and a flood of immigrants straining their social system.
Yesterday’s vote is a direct result of the fact that each year the philosophy question on the “baccalaureat” exam to graduate from high school—and never an easy question—is both highly discussed and debated in the press and among its citizens.
Hunt Slonem is an artist known for his neo-expressionist paintings, his unique sense of style and his larger than life personae. Since 1977, he has been featured in more than 300 shows in galleries and museums worldwide; his paintings have been collected by more than 100 museums and there have been many books have been published about him and his art. But more important than all of this, Hunt Slonem is simply a phenomenon.
But to understand what Hunt has actually done, you first need a little insight into the contemporary art world. The art world is actually made up of many art worlds with the players adhering to different ideologies. The following is a simplifiedoverview of how it works. At the very top are the avant-garde artists whose work dominates the important museum and private collections worldwide. They make work with a strong social focus and use lots of new media. Just below it are the artists who have a more classic aesthetic, but who have also attained a high-level of international recognition. This is where most painters would fall.
Underneath this is a wide range of artists who make strong work in various styles and show in respected galleries. They are primarily known in certain markets but a few of them will one day rise to the top. There is also a group of artists who look much further afield. These are artists that we have traditionally called self-taught, outsider, primitive or urban, and some of them are extremely successful. A good example is the New Orleans artist George Rodrigue known for his blue dog paintings. Dropping down another step are the artists whose reputations are primarily commercial. They make art for specific markets such as interior design and hotels and they follow the latest trends in style, themes and color palettes. At the base are the artists who are just getting started or those who are mostly hobbyists. However, once in a while an artist comes along who blurs the lines and shakes up how things are being done. Andy Warhol is a prime example of this type of artist, but so is Hunt Slonem.
From the start, Hunt’s work was vibrant, exotic and different. As a child, he lived in Hawaii for a while, then, in high school, he was an exchange student in Nicaragua, where he came face to face with nature and two of his enduring themes: butterflies and birds. In fact, his most recent book is titled “Birds”. Then in college, Hunt spent six months in Puebla, Mexico. The cumulative effect of these experiences is his attitude towards nature and his vibrant color.
As a student at the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, Hunt came in contact with many highly respected artists. From them he developed an understanding of craft and culture which he took with him when he moved to New York City in 1973. Three years later he received an art grant and began painting full-time. It wasn’t long before he was an established member of the New York art scene and in the early 1980s he began painting his now famous bunnies.
Hunt is also spiritualist with deep connections to the metaphysical world. He has painted images of saints, consulted with mediums who’ve advised him and he has developed his own rituals. One of these is to start each day by painting bunnies and whether Hunt is repeating an image or crosshatching his paintings with hundreds upon hundred of lines, repetition is important to Hunt’s art and it functions much like a mantra attuning him to a higher level of consciousness.
No discussion of Hunt would be complete without talking about he lives. He has a 35,000 square foot, fully decorated studio in Brooklyn where he keeps an aviary of 30 to 70 exotic birds at any time. He also owns four historic homes which he has restored and decorated in his inimitable style. Here he hangs his paintings in antique frames he has collected alongside his collections of antique furniture, antique porcelains and other antique objets. In fact, Hunt lives in a kind of modernized antique world, one that is both contemporary but also a throw-back to the Aesthetic Movement of the late 19th century.
The Aesthetic Movement, which was also known as the Cult of Beauty, believed that art should be beautiful, evoke sensual pleasure and create mood and atmosphere. The artists believed that art didn’t need to have a deep or hidden meaning, and this is where we get the expression “art for art’s sake”. They also believed that art should be hung in the right setting and favored interiors that were sumptuous and decorative.
Today, beauty gets a pretty bad rap in the upper echelons of the contemporary art world. Yet Hunt has achieved his success by proving that beauty is still a source of innovation and inspiration and audiences still need it. Looking to explain how this phenomenon has occurred, I want refer to Jean-Luc Marion, one of today’s most thought provoking philosophers.
Marion’s work focuses on what he calls “saturated phenomena” and by building on the ideas of other philosophers, but also religion, he argues that saturated phenomena transcend our understanding of the possible and become reality without becoming the object of our subjectivity. In other words, a saturated phenomenon is akin to a revelation. And as you can imagine, creative individuals open to higher states of consciousness would be inclined to this type of experience, and I think we should consider all artistic masterpieces in this light.
Commenting on Marion’s ideas, Christina Gschwandtner writes: “Marion defines the artist as the one who has had a vision of the unseen and is able to communicate this vision in the painting, which gives what was previously unseen to full visibility. Instead of being an object we impartially observe, it is instead a given phenomenon that overwhelms us with the impact it has on us.”
With so many aspects of Hunt’s life infused with artistry, it’s important that I point out that his paintings stand apart. Let me explain.
Paint is a very humble medium and by combining it with a few other supplies, artists can create whatever they imagine. In other words, they don’t need technology, engineering, manufacturing or lots of money to carry out their creative fantasies like most of us do. Yet, only a few us will become artists and even fewer will be go on to be recognized as important. But only one artist has brushed, textured and layered paint into awe-inspiring images of bunnies, birds, butterflies, flowers, landscapes and figures for more than four decades to international acclaim.
TEW Galleries is honored to represent the amazing, iconoclastic Hunt Slonem and we hope you’ll come visit us very soon.
- Timothy Tew
To write this blog, I have referred to the essay “Unsolved Slonem” by Anton Uspensky written for the catalogue for Hunt Slonem’s 2017 show at the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.
Art, by its nature, is creative, individual and personal. It is also, undeniably universal and while there is a fluid crossover between many genres and types of art in which both distinctive differences and subtle shared characteristics manifest, it is the particularity of an artist’s expression of visual language which brings life and energy to a painting or sculpture.
David Nielsen’s visual iconography sources itself in what we might call the ‘beginnings of ourselves.’ His subject matter is that of our human race from the beginning times – animals as symbols of our spirit and psyche, in much the same sense as we see this in ancient cave art ¬– forms simplified and made pure by the removal of individuality in favor of the essential essence of the creature depicted.
Nielsen takes this one step further; by ‘paving’ and segmenting the surface, he creates a feeling of reverence for mother earth. We are all familiar with images of what the earth looks like when it is dry, what happens to a river bed with low water and hot sun, and we know, on a deep spiritual level, that water is the source of life and that animals give us the gift of our continued existence. His paintings celebrate these “big” concepts while still allowing us to look at the work on a much more manageable scale emotionally.
By not using traditional, single point perspective, Nielsen’s forms are allowed to become blocky, thus taking yet another step away from a more obvious representational style. Color is bright, boldly heraldic and very conscious. It takes subjects that are familiar and places them in a modernist space that can be both playful and assertive. By portraying his animal subjects: frogs, fish, geese, turtles, elephants, bulls, bears, moose and dogs, to name a few, in a manner which tends to the Shamanistic, Nielsen has chosen to straddle both the visual and spiritual worlds.
Underpinning the theoretical and visual aspects of Nielsen’s art are years of education and the pursuit of professional experience. He holds an MFA from Florida State University; has an extensive biography and has worked in both the design and art gallery worlds for many years.
Jules Bekker, gallery director
Timothy Tew announces “Thirty Years and Overlooked Favorites”
a Special Event featuring Timothy’s, Jules’ and Corky’s favorite overlooked artworks.
Friday, January 27 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Timothy Tew talks about Art History, Rimi Yang and Yasharel Manzy
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very opinionated. I certainly wouldn’t have made it this far in the art business without believing in what I see and think and having the willingness to put myself on the line for it. I recently felt it was time to combine my opinions with my writing, which I’ve been seriously working on for the last five years, to make videos about some of our artists. As our next show, opening on December 2, is for Rimi Yang and Yasharel Manzy, I’m in the process of creating one for them so stay tuned for an update.
Artists evolve in two ways: they focus on refinement and subtlety or they make noticeable, sometimes dramatic, shifts in what they’re doing. Our upcoming show reflects both, with Rimi shifting and Yasharel refining, and though Rimi’s imagery is familiar, you’ll note a marked change in how she is applying the paint, handling the backgrounds and the overall construction of her paintings. On the other hand Yasharel’s paintings appear little altered. But with closer inspection you’ll see that his landscapes have a greater spiritual quality because he has fused the color and forms into a more seamless expression.
My strong opinions extend to almost everything I care about, and it is certainly true with politics. During the election I alternately expressed my admiration for both President-elect Trump and Hillary Clinton just as I expressed grave concerns about each. Now that the voting is behind us it’s time to let President-elect Trump see what he can do to usher in a better America, a more peaceful world and, with a push from us, hopefully a cleaner environment. As artists take social shifts very seriously I have no doubt that this augurs for some very interesting times in the cultural arena! More important, however, is what you and I do to make our country better. Going forward let’s not forget to question our beliefs, get involved and ultimately hold our leaders accountable.
Rimi and Yasharel will both be present at the Opening Reception on December 2 and I hope that we’ll see you. As always I also hope that you will make TEW Galleries your first stop when looking to acquire art. If I don’t see you beforehand, have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year.
TEW Galleries — One of Atlanta’s Leading Contemporary Fine Art Galleries since 1987
Timothy Tew speaks about Paul Fenniak, Charles Keiger, Mario Soria and Dorian Vallejo
Timothy Tew speaks about Paul Fenniak, Charles Keiger, Mario Soria and Dorian Vallejo
Our next show, The Painted Figure, is somewhat a departure for TEW Galleries. It is a departure because the imagery is spelled out in exacting detail, a style we don’t often get to exhibit. It is also a departure because it will be headlined by one of the finest figure painters working today, Paul Fenniak. Speaking of Fenniak’s work, art critic Ken Johnson wrote in the New York Times: “…there is a genuinely haunting, cinematic monumentality. It reminds one that the narrative as well as painterly possibilities of traditional, figurative representation are still far from exhausted.” At the same time, The Painted Figure is what we do best. The pictures are of superb quality; the artists have an amazing grasp of color and the work is full of feeling and discernment. No less than Paul Fenniak, the show will also feature the whimsical and thought provoking Americana narratives of Charles Keiger, an artist we have represented since 1989, the surrealist paintings of Mario Soria, a Barcelona based artist that combines history and fantasy, and works from Dorian Vallejo, a painter who uses the dreamlike spectacle of female beauty as a metaphor for contemplation.
The role of the figure in art has been one of constant evolution. While the Egyptians used it to represent their belief in a mystical reality, the Greeks used the figure to symbolize their cult of man and his powers of imagination. Much later, the church used the figure to spread christianity. As the first artist to put lifelike emotions on human faces, Giotto transformed painting in the 13th century; then in the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci revolutionized painting again with his startling, three-dimensional realism. Artists today are very different from their forebears. Using new media and making work that is often conceptual, political, confrontational or simply fashionable, the contemporary art world is mostly focus
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