By Indrani Kar
Geoffrey Hunter’s new works at the Paul Kuhn Gallery at first resemble colourful and random chaos, technicolor swirls and scribbles seemingly without meaning. But with more careful attention to the shapes, colours and lines, one quickly finds the work is imbued with layers of stories and at the same time, nothingness. As a result, it gains a Zen quality, a testament to the mandalas meticulously drawn with sand by Buddhist monks, only to be erased as a transient representation of all life and our existence in this plane.
There is in fact an ephemeral
quality to the work while it stands out and demands to be noticed. Hunter excludes no colours from his work: from muted earth-tones, black, grey, and white, to a panoply of bright oranges, blues, and reds. Needless to say the paintings are a conscious exploration—an experiment, as it were—with colour.
Some of the paintings are actually reincarnations of older paintings, sometimes even exhibited in Hunter’s previous shows. If a piece didn’t work before, it has a possibility to have a new life and—with literally more depth as a result of new paint layers—a new story to tell. Hunter does not premeditate which paintings will be painted over or not, it’s more like an intuitive understanding that seems to present itself.
The exhibition is loosely inspired by the Leonard Cohen song “Everybody Knows.” Hunter infuses several themes into his work: ideas of community, conformity, commodity, responsibility, the tension between easily reproducible art and judgements about what constitutes original, “good,” or “bad” designs and accessibility of the untrained to make art themselves and representation of music as inspiration in painting or the visual arts at large.
“How do you take away the emotional hand of Jackson Pollock to make a painting more reproducible,” muses Hunter. “While also knowing within yourself there are pieces that work, that just feel right, and ones that aren’t quite as good.”
Within this experiment of objectivity and expression Hunter discovers a certain satisfaction in projecting doodle-like images from his computer onto a screen and meticulously reproducing them on canvas with paint, following each line and dot with precision, not unlike the mandala- making monks.
“Perhaps it’s just an exercise in futility,” explains Hunter. “But for me it’s a process that allows for evolution in my work over time.”
Often, is it said the journey is
more important than the destination. For many process-oriented artists, the product is secondary, though still important. The multi-layered pieces in particular, are representative of the evolution of the exhibit, both in terms of the artist’s evolution from previous work as well as within this exhibit itself, where it is evident that the paintings made later on are a departure from those made earlier in the collection. Hunter is more content to allow the paintings to appear or at least come out naturally, rather than have a particular goal or too much control of them while he paints. They are almost entities themselves, visual alchemical expressions that echo of the Harry Smith’s gargantuan “American Magus” collection of folk music, much of which spans time, countries and styles. This compilation of music is also one of Hunter’s influences in this exhibit or a visual representation thereof. Just as Smith’s collection is a celebration of the diversity of folk music, Hunter’s exhibit is a celebration of discovery and expression of colour.