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July 23rd, 2008 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

From Seattle, with Gusto

Kinga Czerska and John Dempcy show Portlanders how it’s done.

     
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Talon by Kinga Czerska at augen de soto
Kinga Czerska’s acrylic paintings look flat in reproduction. But in person they’re surprisingly present, owing to the knifepoint precision of their contours. The pieces, shown this month at Augen’s De Soto location, are abstract but look vaguely like blades of multicolored lemongrass sprouting and hanging in unexpected directions. Waft fills the top of the panel with striations of delicate, muted tones. Below, at the picture plane’s halfway mark, the strips begin to arc downward, like bundled wheat drooping with gravity. Meander floats across the composition in three tiers, while Funnel coalesces around a floral-like oval. The works manage to convey both femininity and masculine aggression, delicacy and a sharpness of execution that veers toward the violent. This is Georgia O’Keeffe by way of Don Corleone: gracious but exacting, welcoming but one step away from slitting your throat.

At Augen’s downtown location, John Dempcy’s acrylic fantasias on clay board impress with their sumptuous abstract imagery and dazzling color. Using droppers and needles, Dempcy drips paints of differing viscosities onto his board and lets the materials seep and weep into concentric circles that evoke the eye’s retina. Grid-based, the works are nevertheless freespirited and endlessly inventive compositionally. Some, like Fish Story, stick to the grid’s regularity, while others, such as Sweet Breath, cluster toward the center like a nucleating galaxy. Horse Drawn, meanwhile, could be subtitled: Rhapsody on an Egg Yolk. Lemon, acid green, umber, turquoise, Kelly green, hot pink—if ever a hue was born or dreamed, Dempcy ups the saturation and goes for broke.

It’s worth noting that both Czerska and Dempcy—and abstract colorist extraordinaire Jaq Chartier, currently showing at Elizabeth Leach—are all Seattle artists. Portland artists could stand to take a lesson from these three. Understatement has its place, but so does overstatement. If you have something considered and important to say, why not say it with gusto?


SEE IT: John Dempcy at Augen Downtown, 817 SW 2nd Ave., 224-8182. Show closes July 28. Kinga Czerska at Augen DeSoto, 716 NW Davis St., 546-5056. Show closes July 24.
 
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