Alexey von Schlippe Gallery presents late-summer show

"Eight Beauties Dance," oil on canvas, by Christopher Zhang.
"Eight Beauties Dance," oil on canvas, by Christopher Zhang.

Four accomplished regional artists working in very different mediums and techniques are featured in the Late Summer Exhibition at the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art in Groton. But what these artists do have in common, according to gallery director Julia Pavone, is their expression of human emotion.

"All of these artists seem to want to strip away the things that falsely guide you to places that make you forget your natural self - the feeling and needs of others, and the very basics of life," Pavone says. "They each express visually, though in very different ways, the raw emotional states that make us human, that make us all part of one larger family, and the rich textures of life that we all search for."

CHRISTOPHER ZHANG OF EAST LYME

Zhang's works include his large-scale oil paintings of the people of Tibet and other Chinese minorities, and ballet dancers.

Born in Shanghai, China, Zhang acquired a BFA in China and a MFA in the U.S.

He says of his paintings, "The purpose is to show the beauty of oil painting - light, texture, color … creating large size, multi-figure paintings is a long process, but I always take on the challenges to push my art to a higher level."

Zhang has made many trips to Tibet to paint since he was an art student in the late 1970s, up until last winter.

"Tibetan people are fascinating, beautiful, with strong characters," he says. "Most important to me is that they haven't changed a lot; their lifestyle is still like it was hundreds of years ago. I like to paint them very much."

Pavone notes that the colors and textures in Zhang's paintings are mesmerizing.

"These stunning canvases make the viewer want to soak in the scene and the people and look deeply into their eyes and souls," she says. "You feel as if you are standing there with them, whether it's somewhere in the Tibetan countryside or on the studio floor with the ballet dancers."

"A painting is not just composition, perspective, light or colors and values - it is the interaction of all kinds of arts, including music, dance, and film, etc.," Zhang says. "One can better understand the painting if one understands such connections. That is a serious artist's goal and life mission."

GRETCHEN HIGGINS OF GROTON LONG POINT

Higgins is showing photos taken with her homemade pinhole cameras, built out of an interesting tin or box, black spray paint, electric tape and a lens made from a soda can.

She built her first pinhole camera in the mid-'90s, after taking a photography sampler college class.

"At the same time I discovered the magic and meditation of the darkroom," she says. "I was seriously hooked."

What Higgins likes best about this most basic of photographic techniques is the element of surprise.

"When you place the camera on the ground and direct the lens toward the subject, you cannot accurately predict what image you will capture," Higgins explains. "You have to wait until you return to the darkroom and develop the photographic paper you used for your negative. As the exposures can range from 30 seconds to 8 minutes, subjects generally need to be stable, thus most of my favorites are buildings, streets, tree trunks, docks and anything interesting that will not move."

"The effects are such accidental beauty that to many it will look like something that could only be achieved by fixing a photo with advanced computer technology," Pavone observes. "But instead they have been created with the simplicity of light and a subject, which is what true photography really is."

"Pinhole photography feeds my soul," Higgins says. "I love the slow deliberate work of loading the tin/box, arranging the shot, developing the paper negative, and the final wonder of the image captured."

GREGORY BOWERMAN OF OLD LYME

Bowerman titled his series of oil paintings on panel "Time and Context: The Narrative of the Visual."

He says he chose this title because, "I wanted the paintings to tell a story, to stir emotions and to create a moment of reflection. Art, literature and film generally reflect the time and context they were created in. I chose to focus on those routine tasks in our daily lives that often give us a sense of purpose: Mowing the lawn, changing a light bulb or doing the dishes."

Bowerman's paintings include aspects of surrealism, too.

"I was influenced by the elements of imagination and dreamscape from surrealism to create a whimsical and metaphorical view on life," Bowerman says. "I wasn't interested in any psychoanalysis, deep desires or sexuality.

"Every scene in life has a purpose to move us from one emotional state to another," he adds. "We have been given this beautiful gift called life and yet there is so much hatred, self-hatred and genocide … I have chosen to focus on the positive aspects of life."

Pavone says, "His new body of work does just that. Gregory makes you feel his appreciation for the small sometimes insignificant things in life that we often take for granted. It makes the viewer stop and think, enjoy and appreciate the moments that go by so quickly without ever being experienced fully."

KATHLEEN ZIMMERMAN OF WILLINGTON

Zimmerman is displaying her series of graphite drawings that were drawn during the five years she lived in China.

"They're not necessarily about China, but they were influenced by that five years of my life and what I was thinking about during that time," she says.

Zimmerman says she works in graphite because she wants the ideas and forms to be the dominant force in her work.

"Graphite lends itself to being very expressive without taking over," she says. "Some artwork is all about the materials, but that's not what I'm interested in. Also, there's an intimacy about a hand-drawn image, which I love … whatever I put down on the paper is what I get. It is a meditative experience and a real joy in being able to capture the creative act so purely."

In describing her work, Zimmerman says, "I use symbolism and surrealism to transform my subject matter into archetypal images, which gives them a mythical quality."

"Kathleen's intricate, delicately layered graphite drawings each appear to come together to form the complex entity," Pavone points out. "As with life, each lovely drawing is made up of so many ethereal textures, shades and shapes that you want to look at more deeply to experience the emotions visually laid out before you."

 

"Life is a Fluke," oil on panel, by Gregory Bowerman of Old Lyme.

IF YOU GO

What: Late Summer Exhibition

Where: Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art, Branford House Mansion at UConn Avery Point, Groton.

When: Opens with a public reception on Friday, Aug. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. It will feature live music by the Bill Morrison & Kent Hewitt Jazz Duo. The exhibition continues through Sept. 13.

Cost: Members and students are free; non- members, $3.

Info: (860) 405-9052 or www.averypointarts.uconn.edu.

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