Bleak Beauty

Bleak Beauty

Exhibition: January 14 - February 25, 2023

Reception: January 14, 2023, 3-5pm

Participating artists: David Bailin, Eric Beltz, Sandow Birk, Marsha Burns, Kristin Capp, Grey Francis, Ann Gale, Ben Lindbloom, Tim Lowly, Krisna Nidorf, Jodi Rockwell, Serrah Russell & Robert Wade

We are delighted to present "Bleak Beauty", a group exhibition featuring 13 artists, presented in contrast to our previous solo show of wildly colorful woodcuts by Carol Summers.

"Bleak Beauty" features an emphasis on elements to the other extreme; those which utilize a minimal palette; black, white, grey, graphite, pen, and black and white film photographs. A veering into and a celebration of dark; at times as subject, at times strictly as a compositional device. Read on for an essay by painter, and long-time gallery artist, Norman Lundin.

Words by Norman Lundin
Usually when we see or hear the word “bleak,” we find it coupled with “depressing” or “grim.” There is, though, a context in which we associate “bleak” with “beauty.” This is the kind of bleakness we find in the landscape while driving across Manitoba in the winter. Or, bringing “grim” back into the context: the bleakness of a battlefield after the fighting is done (think Goya’s “Disasters of War” etchings) or Joel Peter Witkin’s photography (think cadavers).

With battlefield or morgue in mind, know that one can make beautiful almost any subject matter. In viewing any form of extreme content, you’ll find that there is considerable psychological “push-pull”. Repellent subject matter may push you away, but (if the artist gets it right) the beauty pulls you in. The “eye” says: “look”—the “intellect” says: “turn away.” That’s the way it is. Deal with the content as you may but one cannot deny that the works of artists like Goya and Witkin are compelling indeed.

There are many types of “bleak,” but the “bleak” of a facial expression immediately engages—it says “Something’s gone wrong” or expresses the existential awareness: “This is all there is…”. It has enormous psychological appeal (think Giacometti portraits or the face of the Egyptian King Khafre as he stares off into eternity). Do understand that getting the facial gesture right is VERY difficult! The difference between expressing insight into the human condition and a bad case of indigestion may be one stroke of the brush, one pencil mark around the eye. Get it one-tenth of a millimeter off and you lose the whole damn thing—it just runs away. You can chase it, but rarely can you get it back. Oh well, chasing some kind of ideal expressive form is what artists do anyway.

Beauty then, in any art form, is a result of the artist’s “doing,” not the content. Subject matter is important of course, but it is subordinate to the process of making the art.

“It’s not the song, it’s how you sing it”.