Thursday, February 24, 2011

Delayed Proclivities: The Loves Of Thomas Van Auken (Part One)

Wait and good things will come.  Or so many of us - who have no choice but to mill outside of offices and sit by rotary telephones - must believe in order to get up in the morning.

For those of us who must wait for the aforementioned reasons, it's best to wait unconsciously.  You can be in the midst of a "waiting period" and think about other things entirely.  Yet you are still waiting even if the psychological stress of the activity isn't affecting how you live and breathe.

By that definition, I've been waiting for a painter-colleague of mine to relinquish his studio and plunge into the three-dimensional world that beckons him from an open window.  I've long bemoaned the fact that all he was getting were views and not experiences - and to deaf ears that have, in one fell swoop, listened in.
He was - and is - brilliant at constructing figurative conundrums in which a defenseless model waits for the artist to "capture" her in ways a larger audience will find irresistible.  Over the years, he's developed an approach that is indelibly his own - for which he has acquired a justifiably glittering reputation.  But he's still dangerous.  People my who wish to see themselves preening from mantelpiece commission him at their peril.  He will be honest about time's ravages, as well as dietary lapses that appear as lumps and bulges.  A while back, everybody was up in arms about Lucian Freud's portrait of his Queen.  Compared to this fellow, Freud was blowing smoke.  My studio friend would have made the old lady an old lady who has been trapped in a royal persona she possibly dislikes now and then.  Freud's picture was honest, but he didn't really get at anything.

This fellow lives in the pleasantly sluggish backwater of Richmond, Virginia where he towers over most of his competitors. (When I rack my brains for high-achieving locals, he's always at the head of the list.)  And he's gotten where he is, not only by the conventionally cumbersome route of hard work, but by means of an original point of view which has, thus far, found perfect expression in the studio.

Well, he has finally taken it upon himself to walk out the studio door.  He hasn't found roses to smell, but mercury-vapor lights and boxy-looking facades.  From these simple objects, he's made the devil's own clubhouse.  His personal aesthetic rejects the notion of a cool, clear day and goes right for the murk.  He has found his outdoors on a string of electric lights.

I want to make it clear that I haven't seen any of the paintings yet, merely online reproductions of them.  But I've looked at such things for a while and have a pretty good idea whether the original sings or not - as these appear to.

When I'm in Richmond again, I'm going to see the exhibit and hope that the three-dimensional canvases captivate me as much as they have in 2-D.  I'm very likely to thank myself for waiting - even if I didn't know I was doing it.

For images of this series as well a happy miscellany, go to:

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