Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Featured Artist: Laurie Near

Laurie Near in her Belleville, Ontario studio

One of the joys of art reproduction is the opportunity to spend significant time with a work of art. Photographing a painting, adjusting the image on the computer, and making test prints, cannot help but change one's relationship to the art. Paintings can obviously have an impact the first time they are viewed; with some images that impact continues to grow as one works with the image. This is a rewarding experience when it occurs.

Satori #30
One artist, Laurie Near, consistently creates art that grows in its impact as I work with it. Laurie's huge canvases depict the natural world in a way that resonates with something inside oneself. I do not understand how this works but I know that it does. Physically, these paintings have many layers separated by glaze. Viewing the work from varying angles or with different lighting reveals details not otherwise obvious. And with each new perspective the impact of the work changes.

Satori #47
Laurie's work speaks of solitude, nature, contemplation, essence. There is a Zen-like simplicity shining through the layers of complexity. Life is simple but there are many ways to view it. She says in her own artist statement, “I am most inspired by writings, music and artworks which evoke a sense of connection and timelessness.” Perhaps this explains the dramatic effect of these paintings. They tap into our “sense of connection and timelessness.”

I have been working with Laurie for four years and have never failed to be moved by her work. I enjoy the moods, the states of mind, these paintings invoke. I look forward to the next collection of paintings.

Artist Statement
Satori #46
“I believe that making and looking at art can be a form of contemplative practice, a space in our noisy and information-saturated lives for solitude, silence, and being in the present. Like prayer and meditation, art can become part of the foundation of who you are in the world, as intrinsic to your nature as breathing.”  ~ Deborah J. Haynes (Artist/Author)

Key influences include artists Mark Rothko, Alex Colville, Ron Bloore, and Otto Rogers, as well as a variety of theological texts and readings. I am most inspired by writings, music and artworks which evoke a sense of connection and timelessness. An avid naturalist (raised by a pair of hardcore “birders”) and a strong believer in basic philosophies regarding the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world, I can often be found hiking with my dog, taking in the scenery and quietly absorbing images and impressions for use back in the studio. From the dusty flat cornfields of Kent County, to the knotted/gnarly trails of Tobermory; from the crashing stony surf of Point Pelee, to the gloriously entangled banks of the Bay of Quinte - long, solitary walks have been an important constant in my life and are an important part of my artistic process.

Regular periods of quiet and solitude are another essential component of my overall practice, with painting sessions serving as important meditations where one becomes both hyper-aware and lost in the process. Over a period of days, canvases are regularly moved from easel to floor and back to easel, depending on whether, and how much I want the paint to travel and mix in each successive skin. Because of the need to allow saturated layers to dry before adding more pigment, I tend to work on several different paintings at once. While this makes for a crowded studio (the wet paintings are generally laid out flat on the floor for long periods of time) it helps to lessen the “stop-start” frustration of having to wait for glazes to properly gel when I’m in the zone and don’t want to stop.

Satori #43

In my most recent body of work, paintings are characterized by focus on repetition, organic shapes and fluidly applied colour. Multiple layers of glaze, in conjunction with the use of metallic and iridescent pigments, allow each painting to reveal subtle, yet important compositional changes depending on the precise angle at which light hits the surface of the canvas. (This ephemeral quality is difficult to capture accurately in photographs, with the glossy, iridescent layers invariably presenting a challenge for even the most seasoned art photographer).

The Satori Series originates from a concept central to Zen Buddhism where “Satori”, in its simplest form, is described by Japanese Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki as a state of sudden spiritual enlightenment in which one becomes able to recognize and appreciate the “true essence” of things. Key aspects of this dogma include emphasis on inner stillness, intuition and the notion of impermanence. These multi-layered paintings are the result of a continuing exploration of the blending of traditional elements of Eastern art (balance, simplicity, “essence”) with key elements of Lyrical Abstraction (process, repetition, spontaneous expression. Some more abstracted than others, the Satori paintings feature reoccurring themes of water, sky and botanical forms in varying stages of growth and decay.

Visit Laurie's website at www.laurienear.com or visit Laurie on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/LaurieNearFINEART

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