The beauty and the fury
What: "Our Fractured World," featuring new paintings by Christian Carlson
Where: Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St., Mount Vernon
WHEN: Through January
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Christian Carlson painted every day all through college. And during his architectural career, he got up each morning at 5am, painting to “keep his hand in.” He got his 10,000 hours.
In “Our Fractured World,” his present show at the eponymous Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon, Carlson portrays a drama of sea, land and sky locked in conflict. In his words, he’s evoking the “beauty and fury of Skagit Valley and the San Juan Islands.” He’s deeply aware of what has already been lost, and he’s sketched “lines of fracture” on the works to give them an impression of great age, “like a Goya” painting.
When asked which painter influenced him the most, his answer was Skagit master Paul Havas, who turned his back on the bright, primary colors of 20th century abstract expressionism to work in pastel colors of the old masters. Unlike Havas, Carlson doesn’t paint outdoors. His studio compositions of earth, sky and water arise from memories—years of crossing the Skagit flats and the Salish Sea to reach a family home on Orcas Island.
For the most part, Carlson constructs each of his large works in gray, white and black, softened with one or two fields of dull green, blue, perhaps a shade of red. For example, with “Reflection,” (mixed media on panel, pictured here), we find a grayish-blue sky above a brooding cliff, which appears to reflect onto a green surface below. My mind wants to see this as water, but the center of the work is angular, cut like a loaf. A sharp line of dull crimson dives below any imaginable sea level. This is no landscape, but a restless dream of wildness.
“Harvest” is a grandly conceived, warm composition. Once again, viewers will see the suggestion of a grayish-blue sky above a light gray sea, beneath which lies a restless underworld of magenta and white, where vast blocks are collapsing. The effect is entrancing.
In Carlson’s “Wetlands,” storm clouds sweep above an ice-blue sea, opposed by broad expanses of beach and headland in shades of charcoal. Two large works, “Grassland” and “Valley Floor,” work with pale azure above and muted chartreuse below. In each, however, the suggestion of realism (grass or fields) is negated by vertical gray faults dividing the lower panels into blocks.
Down the center of the gallery hang three dozen of Carlson’s miniature encaustic paintings, each beautifully framed. Every one is a glimpse into a miniature world. I asked the painter why he had priced them at only $125.
“I’m providing the framing for free,” he answered. Buyers can take them away before Christmas Day and he’ll replace them from the stock in his studio. (On the other hand, If you purchase one of the large paintings, it must remain in the gallery until the end of the show, through January.)
Peruse Perry and Carlson’s adjacent shop in person or online for more gifting ideas—from carefully curated items for the home and garden including books, jewelry, apparel, ornaments, sewing kits and much more—or saunter through downtown Mount Vernon for inspiration as part of its 2020 Shop Local promotion. Think of it as a treasure hunt.
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