How the Light Gets In
by Gregg Chadwick
Paintings and sculptures at their best possess an uncanny ability to communicate ideas and feelings that words or other media are hard-pressed to convey. It seems that especially in times of struggle or unrest, art helps us connect to the personhood of others. Art creates dialogue. Dialogue promotes reflective discussion. And reflection can lead to change.
Artists often use their creations as a sort of reflecting device that mirrors and focuses the viewer’s attention on social and political unrest. As Marvin Gaye sang so poignantly — “What’s going on.”
In my solo exhibition at Audis Husar Fine Art, a group of paintings provide their stories. The young man in Call and Echo has been seen by many viewers as an homage to Emmett Till. Not a description of the unspeakable violence enacted on that young man in the 1950’s, but instead as a human being with personhood, with a face of innocence and cause.
In dialogue with Call and Echo is America’s Sons (From Ferguson to Baltimore). Inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes, the words and advocacy of Ta-Nehisi Coates, DeRay McKesson, and Black Lives Matter — my painting turns a spotlight on the stories of young black men who face racial profiling, harassment and often death.
With millions of others, I marched on January 21, 2017 in the Women’s March. Our crowd in Los Angeles numbered around 750,000. Again, on January 20, 2018 we hit the streets — the crowd was estimated by L.A. Mayor Garcetti at 600,000.
In the midst of these peaceful gatherings, I took visual and auditory notes as inspiration for a series of paintings exploring this time of change. I took special note of the signs that were carried by the crowd and documented them in my paintings The Future Is Woke and Still I Rise.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote that, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
In the center of the gallery is my large scale imagined portrait Scarlet Shadow. In a museum or gallery, the eyes of painted portraits follow you as you walk around the room. There is life within them. It’s the artist’s way of drawing you in.
When a Buddhist image is created, only when it is finished are the eyes painted in. The eyes give life to the Buddha or the saint. As artists, we “paint in” the eyes, we paint in the freedom, the spark that injustice threatens to take away. Artists should never forget their own power to do this.
While in Bruges, Belgium, I was intrigued but also taken aback by a series of small portraits of women by the Flemish masters. In the museum these tiny portraits were
locked away in an almost inaccessible dark glass case. I decided to create a sort of artistic jailbreak on my return home and set one of the women free on a grand scale. Much like a novelist allows a character to become real in the pages of a book, Scarlet came to life on my canvas.
On June 26, 2015 Marriage Equality became the law of the land. With hundreds of others we celebrated on the Supreme Court steps. Later that glorious day, I chatted with President Obama’s official photographer Pete Souza in front of the White House which was lit up in rainbow colors in celebration of the LGBTQ community.
While we watched, the Presidential Marine Corps unit arrived. Onboard was President Obama returning from his moving speech at the memorial service for the church folks who were gunned down by a young white supremacist in South Carolina. President Obama sang Amazing Grace that day. Arrivals and departures…
I painted Arrivals and Departures in memory of that day and with the knowledge that the struggle for equality for all continues.
Platform is set on an elevated train station in Queens in New York City with a view of Manhattan in the background. An almost impressionistic light fills the scene. In this lyricism, I aim to draw viewers into the painting.
Leonard Cohen wrote in the lyrics to his song Anthem:
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”
The light gets in and draws people deeper into my paintings.
Mulholland Blue is set on the opposite coast in the hills above Los Angeles. Standing on Mulholland and looking down towards the glittering lights below, a blurred trio contemplates the mystery of existence.
Does the woman in the green dress meet her double and the memory of her lover? Or has time allowed past, present and future to coalesce?
In a more mythic place, a figure stands unclothed in a darkening forest in Indigo Night.
Alone in thought, layers of indigo and true ultramarine create a dream world. I often buy tubes of genuine lapis lazuli from the London color maker Michael Harding. Lapis lazuli is true ultramarine ground into a crystalline powder and mixed with linseed oil on a stone mill. It is the color blue found in Renaissance skies. Transparent layers of this lapis mark each of my paintings in this exhibit. Sourced in Afghanistan, lapis lazuli reflects the historical tides of trade, conquest, and conflict that ebb and flow across this region and the globe.
October Path is part of an ongoing series of artworks about seeking peace and justice in a world in need of harmony. The mountain peaks of Northern Thailand, rising above the city of Chiang Mai, are often caught in an early morning sea of fog. October Path is set in this mist shrouded landscape. Two Buddhist monks in saffron robes appear and then seem to merge with the air. The color of their robes is considered the color of illumination or satori — the highest wisdom.
Three Secrets brings us back into our urban world. Summer in the city. Three young women leaving their ballet school near city hall. Secrets shared as they walk. The afternoon light gilds their strides.
Painted images are both timeless and immediate and can cut through the visual white noise that surrounds us. Paintings can speak across oceans and cultures where words are not enough.
- Gregg Chadwick, March 2019
Notes on Technique:
Ghosts of earlier ideas appear within my artworks and combine with other transparent moments to create a semblance of movement, of time passing. I build a combination of shadow and illumination in each painting to create a sensation of light emanating from the work. I work with oil paint and usually create at least one color in each painting from ground pigments mixed by hand with linseed oil. Linseed oil has the propensity to grow more transparent with age and visible traces of earlier painted marks gradually appear because of this tendency — called pentimenti. I embrace this eventual outcome in my work and incorporate planned and unplanned pentimenti in my process. Unless noted, all of the paintings are created on Belgian linen.
Audis Husar Fine Art in Beverly Hills.
Opening Reception — March 30, 2019
5:00 pm Benefit Film Screening — Breaking the Cycle
Reservations Available Here $25 in advance $30 at door
7:00 pm Art Exhibit and Refreshments
Audis Husar Fine Art
Address: 8670 Wilshire Blvd Suite 114, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hours: Please contact via phone or email below for an appointment
March 25 — May 11, 2019
Opening Reception on March 30, 2019 in Conjunction with Benefit Film Screening of Breaking the Cycle
About Arzo Yusuf’s Documentary Breaking the Cycle
There are over 500,000 kids in the foster care system in America. Many foster kids are targeted by human traffickers. Los Angeles is the #1 city in the U.S. for the most kids in foster care and #3 for human trafficking. Los Angeles has more than 30,000 kids in foster care. The system is broken and our youth are at high risk of being homeless and trafficked. Breaking the Cycle addresses the issues and creates a call to action.
More on the film and Arzo Yusuf in the Chronicle of Social Change