At once ordinary and intimate, the relationship that accrues between artists and their respective mediums evinces practical considerations relating to material properties, as well as the embodiment of distinct aesthetic purviews.
With Surface & Substance, curator and painter Hester Simpson highlights this dynamic by focusing on ten artists for whom surfaces are responses to a world of shifting values and chaotic changes. Paul Behnke, Elisa D’Arrigo, Shane Drinkwater, Daniel G. Hill, Elizabeth Knowles, Mario Naves, Carol Salmanson, Mary Schiliro, Jane Schiowitz and Simpson herself alternately emphasize the rough-hewn and the seamless, the casual and the resolute. In doing so, they channel currents of the broader culture even as they hone their own peculiar visions.
Simpson cites cultural observers who have linked changes in the surfaces of artworks to socio-political currents and cultural upheaval. The artist and historian Jonathan Janson writes of how a “rough manner exposes the working processes to the spectator making him party to the artifice to which the illusion is achieved.” More refined approaches to paint-handling endow illusion with an overriding clarity and precision. Both approaches can exist simultaneously and, as such, offer different interpretations of the world in which they were created. And so it is with the artists featured in Surface & Substance. They give body to the extraordinary — and extraordinarily swift — changes taking place in contemporary life.