By Raymundo Muñoz
Absent from the geological formations of Jason Thielke’s “Monuments” are the rich red hues that commonly define them; rather, the artist focuses–appropriately–on their more architectural elements, creating abstract crystalline-like landscapes built on sweeps of intersecting lines that whisper and yell like the wind via relative thickness, length, and direction. Cursive vectors meander at times, swirling in fluid eddies, and other times more prominently–and maybe more intentionally–featured like some scrambled scribblings across the stark horizon. Perceived planes and layers–both empty and filled–create paths that guide the viewer along a visual journey, leading their ways to chaotic and geometric foldings of space that close off and open avenues in their expansive wakes.
Dark sections coincide with shadows perhaps, mostly following the lay of the land, but with some exception: “Red Rocks,” for instance, is porcupined by “shafts of light” that seem to burst out, beaconing the audience to enter. This emanation, according to the artist, is–given the purpose of the famous concert venue–actually inspired by sound. If so, the amphitheatre depicted might likely be broadcasting the aesthetically apt Amber album by Autechre. Like said musical mavens, the sceneries presented allow space for the mind to expand in whichever way it pleases, yet are still strangely beholden to the patterns of nature.
As conceptual as the artist’s pieces are, laying atop warmly stained birch panels, the striking linework is softened somewhat by the long and fluid wood grain; in conjunction with the subject matter, nature’s own linework is reminiscent of subtle atmospheric gradations of color and form, adding to the sense of great distance.
Contrasted with his new landscape depictions, the artist offers a few animal pieces, more representative of his past figurative works. Yellow leaves glow like embers in “Great Horned Owl” while the subtle blue background lines of “Grey Wolf” belie the focused and sobering intentions of its subject. Taken at a glance, the soft blues work well as textural elements for the bold illustration atop them, but a closer inspection, in fact, reveals the profile of a deer.
At least part of the show’s success can be attributed to gallery owner David B. Smith whose suggestion, in fact, prompted the artist to venture outside his popular figurative focus.
As far as solo shows go, the quantity of works presented perhaps is on the light side, but given the monumental loci and complexity of composition a little more space for the eye to rest makes sense. If the viewer left somewhat wanting, however, he/she can rest assured of future direction–says Jason, “After this show…I’ll definitely be doing more landscapes.”
Jason Thielke’s “Monuments” on display at David B. Smith Gallery Jan.24 – Feb. 22.