Friday, April 29, 2011

Bob Bryden's Recent Work at Caprice Bistro, Opening May 1.

Mr. Bryden extended an invitation to visit his studio so I crossed the Cape Fear and its wetlands to his home. While near a busy section of New Hanover county, the home remains quiet in a thicket of trees bordering marshlands and estuary. “There are still many rice canals through the property” he says, explaining that the tract of land that was once a rice plantation now salted over. Parallel to the driveway is a weed-choked path that once nested the railroad tracks that began Wilmington's trade dominance. “You could take it all the way to Fayetteville,” and Bob suggests a day hike sometime.

The house lays into the land with a gentle footprint and pulls sublimely from the surrounding nature for many requirements. The construction conforms to practices of minimalism and has no excess to tame or muffle. The artist's home is designed from the same philosophy as his art, and that intricate weave of philosophy and design is a direct result of aesthetic maturity. Mr. Bryden is clearly a deep and quiet thinker of things, a still type, who moves deliberately and thoughtfully into a labor, whether designing a house or executing a print. And that takes us into his studio.

Natural light pours across the workspace from surrounding windows and a tabby cat rests in a corner beneath a chair. File cabinets roll with prints in various stages of completion. A new print hangs on a drying line, clamped with tissue between the rubber-tipped clip. Nearby are two floating frames exhibiting prints which baffle language, imposing a wordless appreciation for his work. Watercolor pencils flow through fields of wispy wash and burnishing, playing among numerous sequences of masking: a meditative scene of melodic color.

A printmaker's studio is a rare thing of meticulous cleanliness and methodical organization, harmony and balance: conscious placement. These terms are equally relevant descriptions of Mr. Bryden's work.
He rolls open a drawer to a new set of print-drawings that vibrate with turquoise and cadmium orange and new greens. Colors are bound in separate geometric forms with prismatic edges, sharp but for a delicate fray. Mr. Bryden says, “I don't like to work directly on the surface of the material.” Raw pigment is thus applied with unusual technique to fresh and luminescent effect with various cloths, inks and additives. Layers of masking and application. Images of brightly pigmented old-growth forests come to mind. Aquatic drifts of light. A centrifuge of linework gradating, a dizzy prism. He details his process and how the work from conception to execution can easily consume 50 working hours per piece. Distillation. When I ask if he could name an influence, he says “no.” He then laughs, pauses, “Maybe Kadinsky.” His work could also show unobtrusively with Diebenkorn, Rothko, Marden.

The pieces never display the copious labors. Instead the processes move and dance and gradate through layers into a smooth controlled image. The colors are dazzling and clean, really diamond sharp, with the world's spring in his palette, making it a perfect May show. The movement of the non-objective compositions is pure design, with an occasional landscape reference giving way to an enigmatic non-pattern. Explaining the prints, conjuring their effect by language, is an impossible thing, a strong indication of the talent at work behind these prints. You must really see them for yourself.

The opening reception will be held May First from 6pm until 9pm in the Sofa Lounge and Gallery.