This month’s first Thursday in Pioneer Square fell on a beautiful, clear fall evening—and yet attendance was quite sparse. Nevertheless, the Pioneer Square galleries presented an abundance of unique works of art. What stood out as a unifying thread throughout many of the shows was a sense of delicacy. All of these delicate works bear a connection—both visually and thematically—to the natural world, and thus a sense of constructed organicism. The attention to detail was obvious in these finely crafted pieces from Punch Gallery, Davidson Galleries, 4Culture, G Gibson and Abmeyer + Wood.
Jen Erickson’s Dark Thaw features graphite on panel pieces that explore “the constant continuum of growth and decay.” The meticulous intricacy paired with the shade variants of the graphite create an organic yet haunted tone. The dispersed designs are both drawn and carved into the surface of the work. This process creates a much different aesthetic—one that subtly draws together the physicality of the panel with more abstract designs. The eleven works included in the show at Punch Gallery each create a sense of atmosphere and environment.
Ben Butler’s Propagation features both a collection of cedar sculptures and ink on paper works. The drawings presented in this show use a crosshatch technique yielding voluminous designs. Although mainly formed by straight lines, these images take on a three dimensional appearance that seems to ebb and flow across the paper. The pieces in the ink on paper series have a topographical quality as well—uniting the delicacy of the designs with a sense of constructed organicism even more evident in his sculptural work. The cedar sculptures, part of Butler’s Specimens series, explore the line between the natural world and the manmade. Butler states that these sculptural forms have revealed a “paradox”—“Simple and strict systems generate remarkably complex and unpredictable forms.” The sculptures are born from thousands of layers of cedar board—creating a repetitive, but completely progressive form. Propagation represents Butler’s breadth of mediums, but also shows his ability to find unity in such diverse forms.
The photographs presented by Robin Crookall capture realistic worlds and spaces through the use of miniatures in a diorama style. These constructed spaces are then photographed in a style that subtly hides the true process. Upon close inspection, the spaces reveal themselves as constructed environments—only by slight oddities in the pieces’ appearance. The show, titled Wear the Fox Hat, attempts to reconcile these dioramas with “the futility [Crookall] find[s] in manmade environments.” Pieces like “Bat Deer” represent Crookall’s ability to construct and capture surrealistic spaces but maintain ultimate control as the creator.
Jeff Ballard’s show There and Back: A Journey into the Unconscious uses the medium of glass and found objects to express a dream journey. The fifteen glass sculptures are filled with minute and significant details. The medium and themes speak to a dichotomy between conceptions of solidity and suppleness. Pillows are a recurring element in Ballard’s show that “reference the world of sleep and dreams, as well as [a] notion of security.” Beyond the symbolic, the glass pillows have a physical dichotomy that parallels the abstract dichotomy of dream and fantasy. That is, while the viewer’s conceptions of a pillow sways towards comfort and softness, glass as a medium is notoriously difficult and inflexible. Ballard’s sculptural trompe l’oeil deftly capture the contradictions and false realities of the unconscious dream world—a world whose limits he has eagerly explored through lucid dreaming. The use of both found materials and constructed forms further mimics the dream state, which is itself an admixture of the encountered and the created. The hooks used in Surrogate appear to be identical, but while one is a found object, the other is hand constructed from glass. The use of the floral pattern behind the dangling pillow allows for a juxtaposition of the utilitarian with the traditionally beautiful. There and Back: A Journey into the Unconscious explores the personal dreams and experiences of the artist while remaining relatable through its themes and the emotions they evoke.
The artists included in this month’s dual show (unfortunately, it closed on the 12th), Gala Bent and Diem Chau, presented two distinct medium forms. While Gala Bent uses watercolor, gouache and line work, Diem Chau transforms the artistic tools of pencil and crayons into miniature sculptures. The use of vibrant colors ties these two styles of work together, as do the minute details that give the works so much intrigue. Gala Bent’s pieces in The Ether and the Mantle reflect the unity between the elements of our world, focusing on this unity to capture a sense of “genesis.” These elements are, in Bent’s words, anthropomorphized. The designs created are both geometric and organic—a distinct choice that speaks to Bent’s interest in the “tumultuous history of life on a chemical/geological level.” Bent recently took home first place at the Art Walk Awards (held on October 10) for her piece “Snarling Wind” (Congratulations!)
Diem Chau’s sculptural works, collectively entitled A to Z: Northwest Natives, turn the everyday utensils of crayons and pencils into mini masterpieces. The tips of graphite on carpenter pencils have been shaped into tiny creatures—for example, a solitary bear (“The Last Bear”). The crayon sculptures play with color and the connotations of crayons and childhood. The use of a medium in this way transforms the tool into the artwork—while also representing Chau’s nomadic lifestyle and the stories that shaped her childhood. These sculptural works attempt to capture the essence of that experience.