Cited once more by this publication as one of the 10 best things about Kennett Square, ArtWorks, under the astute aesthetic eye of Olin Grimes, keeps on keeping on, and so welcomes 2008 with the latest work by Sebastian Upson, one of the stalwarts of the new generation that is updating The Brandywine Tradition for this still new millennium.The work ranges over a number of years and it is fascinating to see his vision expand and his compositions changing within how he handles the paintbrush.
A painting that reaches back in time to a previous style is "Late January." Beyond its immediate Brandywine grounding, there is a decided Asian feel to the work, with the ease and freedom of Japanese brush painting in evidence. This is a neat touch that adds attractive bite to the work in how each element, which should add up to a dense composition, instead flows with ease that nonetheless reflects the title in its chill reality.
The horses by the stable are especially fine in how Upson offers them as mere ghosts, perhaps hidden due to falling snow, which itself is only hinted at while never acutely depicted.
"The Sentinel" offers a lonely lighthouse tower and the walkway that leads to it. The palette is washed out, which leans to white nearly throughout and so lends the scene a ghostly feel. The atmosphere is not due to any fog, but simply that the whole building seems to be either vanishing or maybe just the opposite. Thus magic is embodied in the heart of this piece.
The top of the lighthouse is all clear glass, of course, and this, too, seems insubstantial, though by necessity, of course. In keeping with the overall composition, the sky above is a pale wash of pale gray with the merest hints of blue. Though this shade approaching turquoise is quite pale, it is all the more striking in the context of the rest of the painting.
When it comes to floral work, Upson is in a class by himself. He doesn't offer a cute still life or anything close in "Single with Friends," instead opting for the natural approach. He offers a yellow blossom rising from an abundance of rich green leaves.
The flower is framed by an arch-way, yet this is nothing manmade. Rather it is a geological formation, a dark hollow within a slab of rock. It suggests a cave and there are various color choices in depicting the spread of the mineral that "frames" the flower. This work is possessed of a simple beauty heightened by its literal circumstances. As for the "friends," they are the yet to open blossoms.
Yet another painting with a decidedly light touch in the palette department is the evocative "Hay Bales." Here, a couple are far apart in the frame, and how Upson presents them lends the objects a sense of strange motion due to their distance apart, as if they have rolled away from one another, or moved under more mysterious power.
Centered in the painting is a house of stone behind which rises a stand of bare white birch trees. In contrast to the lightness of the composition's overall demeanor, a rich green fir hugs the left side of the work, reaching into the sky and complementing a stand of bare trees across the way.
This is the perfect artist for a gallery that has long been a local treasure.