Oliver Vernon’s Ecstatic Projections: the Upcoming “Momentum” Exhibit at Space Gallery in Denver, CO

By Miranda Culp

Imagine trompe l’oeil on another high-octane, color-saturated plane where the laws of physics don’t apply. When the eye takes in Oliver Vernon’s latest paintings, it wants to rearrange the elements so they square with its depth of field, bending them into sense. But the paintings protest, actively, and the eye gives up, almost relieved to accept the paradoxes. At a certain point, there is almost a tickle and a giggle.

It’s a game of visual 20 questions because Vernon never gives you exactly what you want, which is either the wordless emotives of abstraction or the total familiarity of representation. You get neither. Or both. But there are hints: pixels, lasers, molecules, rents, splatters, pummeled corporate logos, smears, hallways, comic book glyphs, snowy mountains, concentric sound waves at different frequencies…

Maybe the most noteworthy thing about Vernon’s work is its lit-from-within quality. In the “Momentum” exhibit at Denver’s Space Gallery that runs through November, Vernon and his compatriots Mars-1 and Damon Soule present canvases that look backlit like LED screens. The three of them have collaborated on a 10′ x 23’ canvas, their biggest collective work so far. The show also features several solo works from each artist. 5  In a process that stretches over years, Vernon, Soule, and Mars-1 have developed a mostly unspoken, non-objective method where they fall into a rhythm and maybe bounce ideas around. “We each have a unique way of addressing the space,” Vernon told me. “We can be silent and work within each other’s styles.” It is clearly an ongoing conversation in their own visual vocabulary. Where Mars-1 seems captivated by glowing astronomic imagery, Vernon’s paintings are mash-ups of so many different songs that you only vaguely recognize the instruments. Soule doesn’t seem to stick with one method, adapting to whatever is around him spatially, which makes him at once like a ninja and also hard to detect. Soule’s offerings at this exhibit will be pen and ink mandalas and Mars-1 is contributing bronze sculptures.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” says Vernon, “you are learning so much, to incorporate other techniques, developing a language, but it’s a fine line with maintaining your own voice.” 3

A monochromatic piece entitled “Pilgrim,” all ultra-marines and masked vectors, looks like a massive blue door from across the room, winking with white lines. Up close, it has subtle dust clouds of purple and green in the background that force the sharp sets of lines into bubbles. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Comparing these works for Denver to earlier paintings from his initial arrival in California, Vernon’s palette and sensibility have undergone a dramatic shift from their terrestrial origins. The current work incorporates collage; he painted first on rolls of paper in various palettes that enabled him to cover the canvases in big gestures with both hard, stylized lines and torn edges.

Being in the room with these paintings is a remarkable lesson in space; like standing at the intersection of technology and natural chaos, a car crash of familiar but feral forms. Some of them spill right off the canvas and onto the walls. But they are not just violent; there is humor and harmony. Vernon has conjured a web of multi-dimensional sense and thrown in little whispers of earth. They seem to pose an exhilarating question about the future. And it appears the possibilities are limitless. Oliver Vernon, Mars-1, and Damon Soule will be showing their original works in an exhibit entitled “Momentum” Nov. 7 – Dec. 2, 2014 at Space Gallery 400 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204. 4 1 Miranda Culp writes fiction and blogs about art and other human peculiarities. You can read more of her work at onewhowonders.com