“Don’t ever diminish
the power of words.
Words move hearts
and hearts move limbs.”
Islamic scholar – Hamza Yusuf
There seems to be a trend in the art world right now for using letters, words and mark-making in the formation of completed artworks. I spent some time trolling the sites of Atlanta galleries recently and was surprised to find almost everyone had at least one artist who employed this technique: utilizing words and symbols to tell their stories. Let’s explore five of my favorite painters, each using these techniques in different but effective ways.
My first pick is Amber Goldhammer, showing at Thomas Deans Fine Art gallery on Miami Circle in Atlanta. She is best known for creating vibrant colorful paintings that have a graffiti-like edge and a “street” type vibe. If you have read any of my blogs, you know how much I adore street art—particularly murals with a message—the second thing Amber is known for. She puts forth a positive message of love and hope in words written in script on every painting.
There is a lovely ’60s feeling in the movement and freedom of the work I find fun and appealing. The stylized drips and marks along with the blocking used makes for a calm, soothing story that is reflective and reminds us of the hippie in ourselves. A reminder that all we need is love and a little more kindness in the world.
There are some excellent videos on YouTube about Amber. One is a time lapse showing her creativity and styling as she paints. Take a look if you want to see more of her artistic process.
My next artist has been one of my favorites for a while now. Jeremy Brown’s earlier works were imaginative with bold style and a message of love. As they have evolved, he has become more of a creative visionary in how he is putting pieces together.
Jeremy uses acrylic and spray paint with bold blocks of color and graffiti-style marks. Oil stick and foil are incorporated in between layers of resin providing a slick, shiny but sophisticated “street” look. Then he adds text in bright neon light with his message. For Jeremy it really is all about the love; the passion and energy it takes to create it as well as maintain it. The more unconditional the love the better. His inspiration has come from great artists like Rothko and Basquiat—an homage to the ’50s and ’70s.
Rothko began his career with realism but ended it with the rectangular color blocks attributed to the American Abstract Expressionism movement that he would be known for until his suicide in 1970. Basquiat was a street-smart graffiti artist, originally part of a duo called SAMO, who took cues from hip-hop and punk music. He married text and images with themes of poverty, segregation and racism.
Given that inspiration, you can see how this presents in Jeremy’s work; not only in the blocks and layering but the marks and use of text and messages within the paintings. The real emotions underlying each piece are humanity and compassion. You can see more of his paintings online or at Kai Lin Art in Atlanta.
Blayne Beachamp McCauley studied art and photography at Boston University and oil painting in Venice, Italy. I wasn’t surprised by that once I started looking through the soft muted painting style and coloring in her work. She explains her art is about the human soul and how it changes as we progress through life, learning, growing and developing as we move through the joy and sorrow in our life experiences.
Those specific experiences shape and define us and Blayne has developed symbols that represent those moments in her own life; symbols that make a visual language through text and image recalling those life-changing times. Even her titles are evocative and cause the viewer to put them together with the story of the visual language. As a native Atlantan, Blayne’s work has been featured in magazines like Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles, Southern Living and HGTV. You can see more online or at Pryor Fine Art in Atlanta.
Ilidio Candja Candja hails from Mozambique, which lies on the Southeast coast of Africa. The energy, movement and playfulness of his work along with the explosion of color relates back to African textiles and patterns. He creates symbols from the life he knew in his country with ghostly figures rising to meet skeletons and spiders in a burst of energetic mythology. Text and images play together to create a tapestry that becomes his story of African culture. The brush strokes and mark-making are bold, aggressive and speak to the abstract expressionist style of art. Ilidio says the works explore his own restless spirit as much as anything else. They utilize a kind of collage in the layering that creates each painting.
He invites us into his world as he works and creates exotic colorful homages to his country, culture and experiences. You can see more at Bill Lowe Gallery in Atlanta, which also has a YouTube video of the artist’s work and recent exhibition.
I have written about the paintings of Harry Paul Ally before. I have always loved the feminine aspect suggested by them. They first caught my eye in a gallery show where there must have been 20 different paintings hanging all at once. The bold colors were beautiful and I liked the unfinished deconstructed look of them. Dresses floating with no bodies inside. Figures with crossed arms offering blackened faces with no features. Aggressive brush strokes and mark-making give them their abstract expressionist feel.
Retired after holding the title professor emeritus from the Valdosta State University, Harry taught painting and drawing for over 30 years. He is inspired by the sculptures of Michelangelo; the struggle to release the figure from the stone. So does Harry try to release them from the canvas. Harry seeks truth in his work and the text often refers to the title or the subject matter of the painting. You can see more of his works online or at Mason Fine Art in Atlanta.
Artsy is a freelance writer, columnist and full-time blogger at www.ArtsyChowRoamer.com. The North Georgia mountains and Big Canoe offer the beauty, inspiration and quiet for the lonely endeavor of writing. Her husband and furry travel buddies are the best partners in crime. Don’t be a stranger, follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram & Twitter.