In Conversation: Zachari Logan & Wayne Baerwaldt
The Shadow of the Sun: Ross Bleckner and Zachari Logan pairs famed New York-based painter Ross Bleckner with Regina-based Zachari Logan to remarkable effect. The artists share a sensibility in artmaking that make for a powerful concert of ideas, forms and materials. Bleckner’s use of absence and negation in his paintings have become resonant markers in the vocabulary of contemporary painting. His ouevre straddles a wide range with related shifts in style, from images of primitivism to the spiritual (i.e, Dome), scientific (i.e., Untitled [human cells]) and the commemorative (Mausoleum), with a sustained focus on the devastation and loss wrought by the AIDS crisis. The result is a rich, diverse and highly influential oeuvre of visual markers and strategies around image-making and consciousness that have inspired a generation of artists worldwide.
On the surface it may appear that Bleckner and Logan have developed oeuvres that are stylistically disparate. The visual references of style are only part of the picture however. On a deeper level the exhibition proposes aesthetic links that underpin each artist’s oeuvre. They are the means to create a context of understanding of shared notions of visibility/invisibility, sexuality, selfhood, contemporary landscapes, the fragility of love and the omnipresence of sickness and death. On closer examination both artists share an appetite for representing societal and personal melancholy, reverential beauty, and hint at the many obtuse corporeal sites of erotic pleasure.
Logan’s drawings, paintings, and ceramics often centre on an imaginatively ‘complicated’ figurative representation of flora, fauna, camouflaged human forms and place. By combining species common to the Saskatchewan prairie and the lush vegetation along river banks, lakes and sloughs, the flora represents a nostalgia for both familiar places in Saskatchewan and perhaps an exotic other world that may well be found in the Indian subcontinent or the public parks of New York City’s Bronx (where Logan has conducted studio based research). Much of Logan’s juxtaposed plant matter is impossible for nature to realize in its selection and arrangement. Regardless of biological improbability, the foliage is “accurate” in its ability to visually seduce us, the viewers. Logan conjoins stems, leaves, flowers and thorns in wreaths to suggest a sensuous memorial, guided in its making by aesthetic choices rather than biological accuracy.
Bleckner and Logan often depict flowers as highly agitated and seemingly challenged to retain their figurative presence. Bleckner’s post-impressionist flowers can appear brittle or lush and always alluding to a transcendence from the here and now. Each image is carefully rendered in a blur of vision. Ghostly subject matter appears to hover in the middle distance as something slightly irreal. Logan take s a different approach. His finely wrought imagery is achieved by creating a middle distance in dreamy blue and black tones and a slightly unsettling juxtaposition of densely layered plant matter depicted as suspended or floating. Flowers may be subtly rendered in muted tones or bursting with colour but they often appear stressed and contained against menacing shades of a black background. The dark backgrounds of Logan’s Wreaths and Bleckner’s post-Monet floral patterns threaten to expressionistically invade and obscure the traditional symbolism associated with flowers. Symbols of generosity, sincerity, strength of character, faithfulness, honour, remembrance of a loved one, Logan and Bleckner’s flowers continue to resonate as carriers of strong emotionally driven values. Logan and Bleckner propose approaches to figuration that are full of slippage, images almost too attractive, too secure, detailed, and suggestive of transcendent states.
Installation, THE SHADOW OF THE SUN, College Galleries, University of Saskatchewan. Fall 2018.
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