Holly Blake and Jeremy Morgan
Sandra Lee Gallery, San Francisco, California
by DeWitt Cheng
Continuing through November 30, 2012
Jeremy Morgan Filagree and Ambiance
The natural world was, is and always will be a locus of spiritual force for artists. Bay Area painters Holly Blake and Jeremy Morgan, both English, reveal the stereotypical English love of nature while demonstrating the continuing relevance of the spiritualized landscape (a beloved theme in northern California); it’s not a bad lesson for our late carboniferous capitalist age as we, perhaps finally, get serious about climate change.
Blake situates culture within a natural framework. In her oil paintings delicately rendered symbols of no known meaning float on the glasslike surface plane, with misty abstract landscapes discernible behind or beneath. Blake’s symbols derive from various disciplines and fields, including astrology, alchemy, microbiology and quantum physics, as well as less esoteric, arcane sources like botanical prints and quilt patterns. These system symbols may have little to do with each other on an objective plane, but they marry very nicely indeed in paintings like “Generator,” “Above the Fray,” “A Question of Balance” and “Clear Channel” — the latter, presumably, not named for the media company of questionable ethics. Blake sees her work as balancing “order and chaos, the visible and invisible, confusion and clarity, and the material and non-material,” exploring the numinous or supernatural, and serving as vehicles for contemplation.
Morgan’s lyrical landscapes also infuse nature with cultural meaning, though without the symbolism that Blake employs. Composed of window-like or mirror-like vistas, mostly in horizontal format, that are butted together, Morgan’s polyptychs read as partial glimpses of some world in metamorphosis — data sent back from some spiritual, elemental realm. If viewers get more of a kinesthetic feel to his broad swathes of color, Morgan’s titles (unexplained here) hint at broader mystical themes. Morgan’s interest in Asian culture, especially landscape painting, comes across strongly here at the other edge of the Pacific Rim in works like “Praathanic,” “Santorinian Reverie,” “Atlanticus,” “Utsoroi,” and “Prahsa.”