“Homeland” a collection of new paintings by Bruce Nellsmith will highlight the Vista Lights celebration in the main gallery at City Art in the Congaree Vista Thursday November 18 between 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Various other types of art including textiles and jewelry will be featured at City Art during the celebration.
The Homeland series of Nellsmith’s paintings feature three different motifs -- cityscapes, cliffs, and gorges. On the surface, a seemingly disparate selection, yet as formal compositions, they share a feeling of forms being expelled from the ground and reaching for the heavens. Said Nellsmith, “What joins them in my mind is emotional, psychological, and experiential. These motifs represent significant places in my past, my present, and most probably my future.”
“When painting,” he said, “I find that I cannot accept a movement in the composition that does not contain a certain raw or edgy quality about it. It is this that gives the work a furtive or shifty quality that keeps me engaged. This working and re-working process gives the paintings an inner life, their own independent histories; they live and I live; it’s a symbiotic relationship. Simply put, my message depends upon the manipulation of paint and the responses that process invoke in me. I find my way into a painting and, as DeKooning put it, I then have to paint my way back out, even though I feel as if I am never fully released.”
Identity, according to Robert Motherwell is a search for ancestors, and if anything Nellsmith was involved in this search on a recent trip to France. The trip was originally intended as an homage to Cezanne. Nellsmith left his most trusted paintbrush on Cezanne’s grave site with a blessing wrapped around it -- an homage to Cezanne’s formal understanding of the beauty of nature in the abstract.
Nellsmith tells his story: “I felt at home in Paris, more so than any city that I have experienced-like I was made for it or was made out of it. Drawing in the Bibemus Quarry on the outskirts of Aix en Provence had a mysterious effect on me. Granted, I was there because I was on a sort of pilgrimage to the places that Cezanne had painted, but as I walked among the ochre limestone cliffs that Cezanne had painted more than one hundred years ago, it had a distinct feeling of familiarity to it, as if I already knew it or had experienced it prior. When I returned to my studio on Edisto Beach, I exploded into a series of paintings based on the quarry, like they had been in me all along and it wasn’t an obsessive drive but a compelling love for the quarry. The mystery for me was why should I love it so. I can’t say exactly. Perhaps most of all was its beauty. The stones are the colors of all flesh of all peoples.”
Nellsmith often describes his work as Hans Hoffman tempered by a dose of Cezanne -- the symbolical use of color and concern with the solidity of even the most flat abstract passages in the paintings. These new paintings are often grand searches for something that Nellsmith is fully aware will only be partially realized when the paintings are completed. The search is for something that defines that world in between the self-containment of an abstract painting and those experiences that initially led to the creation of the piece.
Nellsmiths work will be in the main City Art Gallery through December 30, 2010.