Monday, August 19, 2013

Lyrical Improvisations

Lyrical Improvisations

By Tom Wachunas

    “Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential. ”

- Vassily Kandinsky

    EXHIBIT: Fractured Structures – Paintings in Oils and Mixed Media by Christopher Triner, at Second April Galerie THROUGH AUGUST 30 / 324 Cleveland Avenue NW, downtown Canton /

     I realize that for some, perhaps many, the requirement “to draw well” in the making of an abstract painting (as mentioned in the Kandinsky quotation above) might seem to be counterintuitive if not outright puzzling.  Conventional thinking usually associates the term ‘drawing’ with faithful representations of reality. In that context, to positively acknowledge artists for their drawing abilities is to praise their skill in rendering convincing, objective imitations – as well as idealizations - of the recognizable world.

    Kandinsky was among the first artists in the early years of the 20th century to arrive at a non-objective visual language which we could rightly call “fully abstract.” In so doing, he and his fellow pioneers challenged viewers to embrace an expanded idea of drawing to mean the spontaneous and intuitive configuration (i.e., arrangement or organization) of various elements on the picture plane, thus freeing painting from its centuries-old burden of recapitulating the familiar. Call it mark-making with abandon. But this is certainly not to equate abstraction with abandonment of all traditional design principles which could make abstract paintings compelling or edifying.

    That said, Christopher Triner draws well. The more recent (2013) abstract works here (there are also older pieces on view) are highly intriguing compositions of linear and shape elements that are drawn into as well as floating on top of brushy, amorphous fields of variably saturated color. In particular, three of his oil paintings on canvas – Parapet, Cantilever, and Modern Pilaster – are loosely architectural in nature (as indicated by the titles).

    Back in 2010, I commented in a review of Triner’s work ( ) that his strongest painting evoked a musicality reminiscent of Romantic-era symphonies. And in this show, I still sense a palpable lyricism in the aforementioned paintings, though not so much of the symphonic sort. Interestingly enough, while the title of the exhibit would seem to imply a kind of deconstruction or “fracturing,” I find these newer works more akin to structures (or musical compositions, if you will) in the process of coming together in a spirit of frenetic joy.

    These pieces conjure for me the instrumental improvisations characteristic of Bebop or Free jazz. Get playful. Think of Triner’s defined linear structures as percussive rhythms simultaneously supporting and releasing his gestural shapes and splashes of bright color like so many staccato accents or brassy solo passages. All of the energetic configurations in these paintings (the “drawings”) unfold not so much against the blended, undulating color harmonies in the “background” as they emerge from it, establishing a distinctly optimistic, upbeat mood.

    Here, Kandinsky’s call for poetry in abstract painting is well met.  

    PHOTOS: top -  Modern Pilaster; bottom-  Parapet (left); Cantilever (right)

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