Walking into Hilton Head Art League's 2017 Biennale is walking into the unexpected. This unassuming gallery space allowed the art to speak for itself.
Tunping Wang’s pastel, “Undefined#2,” once again captured the audience. Hionas Gallery in New York presented his work in their show “Undefined” in 2011. This was Wang’s first solo exhibition. Tunping Wang’s large scale portraits haunt me. The raw, dark emotion revealed is a human side I prefer to repress. Aren’t we all always “fine”? Wang digs deep and not just in to the soul. His photorealist portraits show us more than a camera lens can.
Undefined#2 is a fascinating piece to study. The detail takes time to absorb. The subtlest nuances of hue and light breathe life in to the figure. It is artfully cropped to create tension in the light and dark, yet still allow for balance and symmetry. I am challenged to grasp the emotion. What is this man looking at? Maybe nothing in particular? I want to know what he is thinking in this moment. Such is the art of Tunping Wang.
William Schneider’s oil, “Red Brigade,” is another brilliant work that studies light, contrast and texture. I relish how the realistic face of the figure is juxtaposed by a surrounding expression of abstraction. Again, the forces of light and hue are skillfully at play. Light dances through the colour and texture surrounding the face. Schneider knows when to stop; he knows what to leave out. This work, in its simplicity, is actually quite complex. I’m drawn to focus on the person and the story he has to tell.
Abstract art challenges us to see. The visual phenomena are the same, only we are not distracted by subject matter. Art Cornell’s work, “Steps in a Journey,” is a beautifully balanced piece that gives us the illusion of space. The piece is dynamic with a fluid diagonal line of upward movement. Or, is it downward movement? What do you see?
I am challenged by digitally enhanced photography. I am an old-fashioned purist and big fan of Henri Cartier-Bresson. That sums it up. What’s sets the photographer apart from other artists is the ability to see a picture and capture it in an instant. Two photographers caught my attention with interesting imagery and composition: Paul Murray with Havana Living #1 and Nicholas Mariano with Fishing Boats – Mauritania. It makes me wonder what they can do with a Leica 35mm in black and white.
The 2017 Biennale offers a wonderful variety of artistic expression. It is well balanced among the media which is a testimony to the jurors who presided.