Sometimes art has no theme, no narrative and no message to express. Garry Mitchell’s art is about the process of painting and the use of color. His new abstracts will be on display through Nov. 20 at ICON Contemporary Art, 19 Mason St., Brunswick.
Mitchell, a Colby College art professor, will attend the opening reception of his solo exhibition 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at the gallery.
ICON Contemporary Art owner Duane Paluska saw Mitchell’s paintings on display at the Colby College Museum of Art 10 years ago and has been showing him every other year since.
“He’s constantly reassessing and redoing his work,” Paluska said. “Each of the shows I’ve had, at least four of them now, have been a little different.”
The paintings are more geometric than in his previous exhibitions. All 17 pieces are new, and only three of the pieces have been shown in another exhibit.
“He has certain gestures that tend to be personal ones that he uses, but I’m not sure I could describe them,” Paluska said. “He has a technically personalized way of working with paint.”
Mitchell uses rollers, squeegees, brushes, printmaking brayers and pallet knives to arrange alkyd, a quick-drying oil paint, into an abstract composition. He often works in layers, painting over the surface of old compositions.
“They are really process-driven paintings,” Mitchell said. “I don’t have a preconceived concept.”
He works for weeks or months on a particular painting, but he has several going at one time.
“There’s this idea that when you can start a painting or book or something, anything is possible, but eventually only one thing is right,” he said. “It’s moving from the general to the specific.”
It’s important to Mitchell that he works by hand. Even edges and straight lines are painted freehand. He quickly draws the lines and then corrects them by wiping away excess paint.
“It gives them a certain look I wouldn’t be able to get if I were taping things or stenciling,” Mitchell said. “If you look at things closely, no line is really straight.”
He teaches studio art at Colby College part-time so he can keep his studio practice going and spend time with his 11-year-old son. He has exhibited work in New York, Tokyo and Boston.
In Maine, he has exhibited at the Portland Museum of Art, Colby College Art Museum, University of Maine Farmington and Maine Center for Contemporary Art.
The largest piece in the show, “Perimeter,” is 48 inches by 40 inches. Paintings range in sizes down to 20 inches by 16 inches.
Paluska says he only exhibits art that he likes. He is impressed with Mitchell’s art, especially his sense of color.
Mitchell initially decides upon a painting’s color structure and then lets the nuances that come from layering paint show through. He knows the appeal of complementary colors and the effect of deepening a hue, knowledge that he shares while teaching studio art.
“I have all these bags of tricks to work with but I try not to overthink it.”
“We are just creatures of influence and habit, basing things on what we’ve been looking at,” said Mitchell, who describes himself as “visually active” and is influenced by the art at the college and his everyday surroundings.
“I’ve always been an abstract painter but I don’t think I’ve hung out with a particular look for more than a few years at a time,” he said.
He intentionally changes the look of his art. Since much of his recent work is composed of right angles and straight lines, his next series of work may be more open and curvilinear in design.
His abstracts will be the final exhibition for the gallery this year. The gallery will reopen in April 2011.
For information about the exhibition, call ICON Contemporary Art at 725-8157. For information about Mitchell and to see digital images of his art, visit garrymitchell.com.
photo courtesy of garry mitchell
“Resolution Road,” an oil painting by Garry Mitchell of North Yarmouth is on display through Nov. 20 at ICON Contemporary Art in Brunswick.
Photo courtesy of Garry Mitchell
“Perimeter,” an oil painting by Garry Mitchell of North Yarmouth, is on display through Nov. 20 at ICON Contemporary Art in Brunswick.