On March 18th, 2017 I visited The Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, NY to view the exhibit “Vantage Point.” The exhibit ran from January 21st to March 18th. This exhibited artwork from two artists: James Thatcher and Ben Schwab. Both artists use large scale in their works, but vastly differ in style. Thatcher’s work consists of massive gradient paintings, with a heavy emphasis on the tree of life and hexagons for this show. Whereas Schwab’s paintings are abstracted cityscapes. Because of the large scale of Schwab’s abstracted pieces, the scene gets easier to see the further away you are from the painting. It was interesting to see two artists with such different styles shown beside each other.
One of Thatcher’s pieces that stood out the most was Transformation Hexagon + Tree of Life Diptych. This piece is done in gesso whitewash on roofing felt. With this show, much of Thatcher’s work revolved around this symbol and the hexagon shape; this diptych captures the feel of the work and other pieces presented. While some pieces had color (only blues), most were black and white. The use of black and white made some of the works look like stone, but with this piece in particular, it makes it look and feel old. The tree of life on the left of the piece looks like metal that has been sitting there so long that it has started to rust. The drips add to this effect, almost as if it were rain, yet they appear on the right side as well and do not send the same message. The drips on the right side of the piece look much more controlled. When seeing the two shapes side by side, it looks as if the tree of life forms the skeleton on the gradient painting on the right. When thinking about this in terms of what the tree of life symbolizes, viewers can take away a much deeper meaning: the tree of life makes up much of the world around us, especially wherever we can see or make hexagons.
Schwab’s work is very different from Thatcher’s, not only in style but in feeling. Thatcher’s work is much more abstract. One of the pieces that stood out the most of his was Points of Interest. This is a large oil painting done on canvas, and it if full of many bright colors. This piece in particular sends a happy message to viewers. Bright blues and greens are used making the painting appear as spring or summer. Negative space is used effectively in this piece as well to make other forms such as tree branches and cables for the bridge. This piece is much easier to see and figure out what it is from farther away. This was an interesting concept to apply to his paintings, each one shown in the exhibition were like that. This forces the viewer to stand back and look for a moment to appreciate it, instead of just a passing glance.
Both artists have many things that could be applied to my own work in graphic design. Thatcher’s use of a symbol and applying it to the real world through simple shapes provides deeper meanings. By using this philosophy, I could provoke more emotion in my own pieces. I could use symbols instead of just using an exact picture or drawing of something. It provides the viewer with a reason to stop and think about what they are looking at. With Schwab’s abstracted pieces, I’m not sure how I could apply this to my graphic design work specifically. Since I don’t work in such large scale, I don’t believe that abstracting my work to look better from afar would be beneficial to me. Most of what I do is viewed close up and it would not make much sense. However, his use of negative space to keep things bright and not too congested is a good example of something I could use. Negative space is often underestimated, but Schwab uses it effectively in his work.