Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Renegade Trajectories, an exhibition of new paintings and works on paper by Oliver Vernon. This is Vernon’s third solo show with the gallery, and the artist will be present at the opening reception on May 30.
Combining elements of landscape painting, figuration, and abstraction, Vernon’s practice pushes all of these categories beyond easy distinction, creating a hybrid visual language all his own. “The picture plane is a continuum of give and take,” says Vernon, “where positive and negative space give way to each other in rhythmic intervals. Energy oscillates and migrates, initiating changes along the way. And color is a navigational tool to guide the eye through the chaotic scape.”
Vernon lives in the Sierra Nevada region of northern California, and glimpses of these breathtaking vistas turn up frequently in his work. However, landscape is never a subject or even backdrop, per se, but instead a visual cue toward the expansive scale of Vernon’s abstraction. In many works, this takes the form of a wave-like torrent of arching brushstrokes and cascading patterns that dominate the canvas, devouring mountains, valleys, clouds, and the horizon, or nimbly swirling everything into the overall composition. The effect is destabilizing, imposing an abstract system on the more common notion of a fixed, physical reality—landscape gives way to visual frenzy, flights of imagination, and transformation.
In Renegade Trajectories, Vernon explores this dynamic with twelve medium-sized acrylic on linen or canvas paintings and a suite of twelve ink on paper works. The exhibition will showcase several large-scale paintings, the largest measuring nearly 8-x-7 feet. In the painting Excavation, a jagged cyclone of geometric shapes, architectural elements, and quasi-anatomical forms swirl about a distant horizon, pulling it in or ushering it forth. In the dramatic painting Flashback, this force takes the form of an orange and violet-tinted flood, inundating the picture with a chaotic rush of brushstrokes, graphic patterns, and semi-figurative material. As the artist notes, “These incidents or events take place in worlds within worlds. Everything is whirring with activity as parts of systems engage with other systems in a state of constant flux.”
In his works on paper, Vernon’s use of Sumi ink imparts an even sharper contrast of forces, of positive and negative space, in black, white, and subtle gray scale. Hard-edged but somehow serene, these pictorial spaces draw viewers into a spiral of connected facets (or dimensions)—cascading flower petals, lozenge forms, pulmonary or lung tissue, honeycomb—giving way to a brightening horizon beyond. Ultimately, the distinctions of figuration/abstraction, figure/ground, are not the artist’s primary interest. In all of his work, Vernon is most fascinated by the dynamic interplay between these surreally juxtaposed elements—in his own words, “not the what but the how.”