Nature itself is like an artist circling backward to explore the same themes over and over again in different scale, media, and palette. We, ourselves, are a part of nature. Our very beginnings are composed of these same patterns and designs—the whorl of our fingerprint like a spiral galaxy or quickly fading eddy. The theme of my work is nature; the idea behind it is small magical moments.
Jennifer Langhammer, 2019
The process of painting itself is meditative. I close my eyes, breathe very deliberately, and start to feel very present. I open my eyes and immediately strike (or stroke) the canvas surface with the loaded trowel. That strike is it: I limit each piece to one quick, explosive engagement. I allow the medium to be the medium (stay out of the way and allow the paint to do the work).
Richard Nocera, 2019
The Thompson Gallery is honored to present the third and final exhibition in the Circulus Retro series: the works of Jennifer Langhammerand Richard Nocera. Both artists have “circled back” to their alma mater for this exhibition, but that is only one sense of its namesake. As an integral part of their art practices, both artists use repetitive studio practices to investigate their interests and curiosities, and they continually return to their beginnings to try it again and again:
Langhammer is interested in “growth and evolution of living things,” “observing nature” and capturing “patterns and designs” as she works with clay.
Nocera is interested in “purging” his “painting process of expectations,” “letting go” and allowing the material to do what it does” as he paints.
Each artist explores abstraction through different means. Langhammer’s exploration is initially observation-based. Nocera’s exploration of abstraction is an internal expression and is not based upon observation. Both artists relate their working methods to meditation, and both artists minimize the amount of control they exert over the materials they use as they “allow materials to speak.”
Langhammer’sprocess can be additive or subtractive as she explores what she calls “‘organic abstraction’—forms and ideas taken from nature, but not direct representations.My fascination with the details of nature began when I was a child and I walked with my eyes on the ground, searching for treasure, which I often found in small natural objects. I still find the patterns and details of things like seeds, bark, and leaves beautiful and extraordinary.” Langhammerbegins with a six to twelve-inch-tall, egg-shaped lump of clay, and then either adds to it or removes from it, all the while keeping ideas and observations of natural forms in mind as she works. “Since childhood, I have been fascinated by the details and patterns of nature. ‘God is in the details’ refers to the mysteries that are revealed when we look closely. It is these mysteries and their truths that resonate deeply with me and make me feel connected to the divine. These secret details are everywhere in many forms, but for me, nature is the clearest window into the secret webbing of the universe.” Langhammer’s wall and table pieces explore a wide variety of natural forms, some of which are made with multiple components that, while fixed in place, seem to be in motion as if caught in a current of water or wind. Some of her work explores “the commensal relationship between two or more natural elements, host and growth. Everything grows on something…Others are repetitions of the same element, exalting the form. Repeating the same shape over and over again with slight variations is like an ode to that single idea.”
Nocera’swork is initially additive, but an element of change endures in the finished work; the tar ground he paints upon effects the color of the white paint during its drying stage, which can take years to fully cure. He prepares a group of twenty canvases with tar or a painted ground as receptacles for a “strike” of a paint-loaded trowel. Before he paints, he readies himself by trying to remove any preconceived ideas about what the painting will be, and then he adds a single but varied gesture to his painting surface. Over time, these markings change as the surface of the painting and the material of the paint age together. The paintings with a tar ground, for example, interact with the Titanium White “strikes” to cause shifts in the luminosity of the color. Nocera’spaintings were finished just two weeks before this exhibition was mounted. The Titanium White will continue to be effected by the leaching of the tar, as the tar slowly imbues the white pigment with its coloration. He works to reduce his influence over the images he creates. “The impact I have on the material is less important than the material’s impact on me…It is really hard to approach painting without having any intentions! There is deliberate in unintentional. I decide what to leave in, and I decide what to take out, and I decide to allow accidents along the way…It’s tricky not to overthink…it’s more like I’m letting go—of preconceived ideas of self—and in doing so, allowing space for something new to come. To be present is to realize you’re empty.”
While Langhammer’sand Nocera’smethods for each new body of work are similarly repetitive, the results are always different, and that keeps each artist coming back for another round of exploration.