There were only five of us in the Zipcar minivan that Jennifer had reserved for us to make the trek to Vancouver, Washington to visit three artists’ studios. All three, of course, are member artists at the Rental Sales Gallery, and this field trip was intended to enlighten us as to methods, mediums, motivations and styles used to create the wonderful art shown in the Gallery.
A bit of a late start, heavy traffic, and a mistaken address delayed our arrival to the correct side of town, but we were not far from our destination and arrived at Kenneth’s home to find the remaining car caravan of volunteers there to join us. In all, there were about 15 of us eager to investigate and interview this artist whose work we had admired in the gallery.
Kenneth’s home is beautifully decorated any time of year as it’s full of his own work and an eclectic collection of friends’ work including hints of worldly treasures such as African masks here and there. Even more stunning, the Christmas décor added to the ambiance perfecting the space like a photo shoot. Fresh brewed coffee wafted through the kitchen and soft sounds of holiday music danced about us as if the soundtrack to our day. After we enjoyed some home baked goods, Kenneth showed us around the house and talked about the works of art.
With approximately 160 works on display to see, it was like visiting a cozy museum. Two of Kenneth’s pieces stood out: one large dark woods scene with gestural clumps of grass, the effect of which he achieved by painting with a wire, dipping into grey tones of paint and lashing onto the canvas. The other stand-out appeared to be a lopsided cross made of painted wood. Kenneth explained it was rather a kimono with one half cut in a female style and the other in a male tuxedo style. Framed with a copper border, a gift to his partner, the piece is very unique.
Moving to the dining room, Kenneth talked about his work and main influences, two of which are Clifford Still and Jackson Pollock. There were several pieces paying homage to these two and one of these we would choose for the gallery.
Kenneth shared that seeing Lavender Mist at the De Young Museum as a student still inspires him to this day. The energy and “planned accidents” in Pollock’s work are appreciated and incorporated into Kenneth’s own work.
After a refill of goodies, we headed upstairs where Kenneth had laid out several new works he wanted to show us. These works had big bold splashes of color painted on top of an otherwise Pollock inspired composition in the background. Kenneth explained he enjoys adding the slashes because “it creates tension, adds conflict and makes the mind work”. (see pic) ?Everyone really liked the red on blue and ken added that the “bright red on blue pops, gives it depth.”
As his career has progressed over some 54 years, Kenneth finds abstract painting to be the most challenging. “It evolves as you paint it and it takes a longer time as layers of paint need to dry before new layers are added.” Moving down to his studio, a work under construction taking up 1/3 of his 3 car garage, we crowded around his work table to view an abstract treescape in progress. Kenneth wasn’t sure it was done, but we wanted to take it as is!
Looking at a jumble of paints on shelves, we were assured he knew just where every color was. When asked how he started a painting, the first answer was “just begin”, but he elaborated about how he started with darker shades, moving on to lighter hues using various tools including hardened brushes, sticks, paint stirrers, and kitchen utensils. Tree branches and twigs were lying about as models or ideas for his work. Pointing to the pile of twigs, “Look at the negative space, the space between the branches. There’s a lot of abstract potential there. There’s 100 paintings there!”
To see works by Kenneth Ray Wilson, please click here.