Bryan McFarlane, House of Pyramids, 2011, oil on linen, 47x39.
September 11, 2012
From September 4th - 29th, Gallery Naga will feature recent paintings by Boston-based artist Bryan McFarlane in an exhibition titled, My Dragon’s Silk Road. Though new to McFarlane’s work, I am incredibly intrigued by his artistic, cultural and critical interests, not to mention his striking oil on linen compositions.
In his paintings I see bold, layered and unusual color juxtapositions. I see hearts, rainbows, dice, pyramids, wishbones, eggs, G-clefs and jesters. I see stream of conscious symbols dancing towards abstraction on fields of liquid-looking hues. And I see an artist brimming with ideas and connections that seem as though they could spill right off the stretcher.
The paintings that comprise My Dragon’s Silk Road are selections from the past two years, a period in which McFarlane explored a deep fascination with China and its expanding role in the contemporary art world. McFarlane melds that curiosity with influences from his native Jamaica and formative travels to Brazil, Columbia, West Africa and East Asia, allowing these intermixed experiences and resulting lines of inquiry to shape a pivotal moment in his own painting practice.
Bryan McFarlane, Chocolate, 2011, oil on linen, 47x39.
While McFarlane hints at particular iconographies (literal, universal and spiritual) in these largely abstract paintings, he is happy to have viewers discover, associate, or internalize his multivalent symbols for themselves. Sure, McFarlane can share with viewers the stories behind each specific sign, for as he puts it, his “paintings are based on a highly personal ‘positive psychology’” that derives from his desire to examine both “history and ‘things’” in whatever environment he finds himself. But in no way is an affinity for his work predicated on an exact understanding of the many rich referents found in his paintings. The mystery is most definitely part of the allure.
My Dragon’s Silk Road furthers McFarlane’s journey away from the figurative works of his early years and towards a new and ever more globally engaged contemporary art. These are cross-cultural and multi-national paintings, with traces of surrealism and expressionism all rolled into one. They are surrogates for McFarlane’s travels and creative identity, beckoning viewers to seek out the same for themselves.