Abstract Observations features paintings and installations by Pacific Northwest artists Lydia Bassis, Maxwell Humphres, Jason Sinclair Astorquia, Diana Sanford, and RobRoy Chalmers. While all work with imagery that could be categorized as “abstract,” each artist uniquely explores the roles of the artist and viewer in navigating these ambiguous spaces.
Using small, repurposed intaglio prints and sculptural elements, Seattle artist RobRoy Chalmers’ site-specific installation spreads through the back of the gallery. Describing the installations as “Sporozoan Swarms,” Chalmers writes: “The Sporozoan is a word I use metaphorically to describe the serendipitous moment of seeing, which tempts us all to look just a little bit more closely. This moment is the spark that allows growth in humanity causing us all to become.”
Seattle artist Lydia Bassis draws inspiration from her imagination and her surroundings to create harmonious, abstract vignettes. Rather than seeking to portray the tangible world, Bassis orients her private symbolism more in the realm of invisible, yet significant, forces such energy, time, and feeling. Fragile knitted forms and heavy blocks of color peacefully coexist in scenes the artist describes as “lighthearted and playful, bold, balanced, and sometimes funny.”
Like Bassis, Diana Sanford of Wenatchee often works without a clear idea of what the painting will look like when it’s finished. The act of painting becomes an improvisation, much like a jazz performance, where each mark made is a response to the previous mark. Describing her process as one of looking and responding, Sanford creates ambiguous spaces where light diffuses boundaries in a densely varied surface. The artist writes: “I’m most fascinated recently by the discipline of maintaining a focus on the discovery aspect of the process; on perception rather than conception.”
Portland artist Maxwell Humphres invites the viewer to participate in the reconstruction and alteration of his wall installations. Humphres creates three-dimensional wooden shapes based on forms found in graffiti as well as urban architecture, and then fits them with magnets and Velcro so that willing visitors are free to move them around as they choose. The artist likens this process of transformation to that of the street artist who enters a city environment and essentially interrupts and alters architecture with graffiti. By bringing elements of graffiti, architecture and audience participation to his work, Humphres highlights the element of transience they all share.
A Seattle artist originally trained in Applied Mathematics, Jason Sinclair Astorquia uses money as a metaphor for the power of symbolism: “Money, in intent and consequence, impresses us. Subtly, imperceptibly, it leaves a mark. …Money’s impression influences perception.” In his painting Candy, this is happening literally: Brightly colored impressions of pennies stack themselves to form a polka dot grid-like pattern, which, underneath a slick, shiny surface, looks tantalizing enough to lick.