By Tom Wachunas
“… I like to believe that mystical powers lie in visual art-- meaning that if people gaze on an image that uplifts them, inspires or even just amuses them on a daily basis... then their life is changed for the better. It's like an instantaneous sort of meditation practice…”
“…My goal is to recreate the experience of discovering a natural wonder…Just like in nature, my work is filled with philosophical contrasts: simplicity amidst complication, harmony amidst conflict, order amidst chaos…” - Dyanne Williams
EXHIBITS: By Leaps and Bounds – Paintings by Su Nimon in the McFadden Gallery / Mosaics by Dyanne Williams in The Malone Gallery / both exhibits on view THROUGH OCTOBER 20, located in the Johnson Center on the campus of Malone University, 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, Ohio / Galleries open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.– 6 p.m., and closed when there are no classes in session.
Looking at the acrylic paintings by Su Nimon, and the mosaics by Dyanne Williams, I thought of the great English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850). When he reflected in his magnum opus, The Prelude, that he was “…Bent overmuch on superficial things / Pampering myself with meager novelties / Of colour and proportion…,” he was remembering those times when, caught up in the incidental appearances of nature, he could be blind to the real essence, or spirit of what he was beholding. He realized that at its most noble and efficacious, the most compelling art effectively transcends scenery of the apparent to evoke visions of the sublime.
As an aesthetic, Romanticism emerged in Europe during the 19th century, and much of its legacy in visual art can be found in dramatically painted landscapes. On one level, you could call Dyanne Williams a modern-day Romantic. Interestingly, in her endeavors to transform nature’s physicality into an embodiment of philosophical ideals, she sources the very ancient medium (from as far back as the 3d millennium BCE) of mosaics – decorative abstract designs and representational imagery made by assembling small pieces or tiles of glass and stone.
While some of Williams’ pieces here are merely sleek, ornamental modules, her most arresting works are invested with a deeper sort of scenic lyricism, at once earthy and ethereal. These meticulous arrangements of glass, porcelain, sparkling gems, and small river rocks, accented with subtle iridescence, are elegantly designed to exude a mesmerizing charm.
Su Nimon’s acrylic paintings can be charming – indeed mystical - too, but not for any material intricacies of form or light. Her paintings are neither densely configured nor ‘painterly’ in the visceral sense of the word. With a gentle brush she pampers us with disarming airiness, at times reminiscent of traditional Chinese ink-and-brush painting.
With the exception of her realistic renderings of crows (or ravens - folkloric and mythological denizens of many cultures, symbolizing everything from good luck and glad tidings to the oracles, spies, and messengers of the gods), Nimon’s imagery is abstract. Here are wispy occurrences of lines arranged in arcs, circles or spirals, or amorphous washes of color. Her physical gesture of making rudimentary marks to float on blank white fields is essentially a spiritual act, a meditation on the ephemeral… a contemplation, perhaps, of consciousness itself. These images don’t suggest prosaic narratives or even epic poetry. Instead, in all their sparse, often exquisite simplicity, they’re like visual haiku.
Once again, Wordsworth: “How many undervalue the power of simplicity! But it is the real key to the heart.” Words worth remembering.
PHOTOS, from top: mosaics by Dyanne Williams – Underneath / Depth / Cycles / paintings by Su Nimon – I Am Restored / There’s Always Hope / Found My Path / My Heart Keeps Looking