“Devolve” is very impressive. Everything in it is labeled untitled. And yet these works do seem to convey a definite message in spite of the lack of words. When I came into NAC and saw the array of huge flamboyant pictures, mainly in red, orange and yellow, by Wayne Corliss, it made me think of Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was so suggestive of fire from heaven. I would like to suggest that Wayne’s pictures be reproduced as illustrations to Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, they seem so much like poetry about Lucifer’s fall from heaven. Light and fire and an awe-inspiring violence are all suggested in swirls of very definite downward movement. And of course the massive size of these pictures also suggest something truly grandiose.
Each picture is different in spite of their basic similarity, like coming again and again to varied expressions of similar emotions in music or poetry. The same theme is touched on in different but equally glorious ways. As in the case of Milton’s poem, Lucifer, the fallen Light Bringer, is still a glorious angel in his fall. However the final picture in this series seems to show the calm, peaceful radiance which filled heaven after the rebel angel’s departure. I may be letting myself be carried away, but the two cubes poised on their corners which introduce and conclude this series and contain a lot of dark green and dark blue could represent Lucifer ruling in Hell after serving in Heaven.
The equally poetic works by Amber Lee Williams follow. They are much smaller and to tend to run to shades of grey, beige and blue. They are quite decorous although some are dark. The poetry they evoke is private, personal and domestic, making me think of Emily Dickinson rather than John Milton. Amber does say in her artist’s statement that she has drawn on her own life experiences in her art. She works in beeswax, with a blow torch, and says that sometimes she the medium takes over, but to me it all looks very precise. I noticed several pictures with small light coloured circles like portholes for the artist to look through. These pictures seemed to be painted with the inner eye, giving the viewer entry into the artist’s mind.
The second show, “Scenes from Late Capitalism” by Nathan Heuer, is quite different from anything in “Devolve.” It is drawn with a great many straight lines, in a reasoned, abstract, understated, somewhat satirical way. There is a definition of a straight line as “the shortest distance between two points” and Nathan covers the shortest distance between constructing a motel or a factory and letting it fall down. Nathan says that his object was to show utilitarian buildings set up and abandoned in the spirit of consumerism. However in his drawings, they still appear intact.
The works by Wayne and Amber might be described as abstracts, for lack of a better word, but Nathan’s work, while strictly representational, is far more abstract from the emotional point of view. The two shows are a study in contrasts.