The Hidden Lantern Gallery in Rosemary Beach is now exhibiting Polished Landscapes: Venetian Plaster Reimagined, featuring the unique artwork of Atlanta-based James P. Garrett. Hidden Lantern owners say that Garrett’s work is a perfect match for the Gallery’s aim to present traditional materials utilized in unconventional ways.
Born in the United Kingdom, Garrett’s training and early career as a painter was of the transatlantic kind, working his way through media and techniques in London and New York. In the mid-eighties, he was introduced to the medium of Venetian plaster, skills for which he honed with leading faux-finishing artisans, producing interior details for clients such as Jackie Onassis, The Rockefellers, Yoko Ono and Donald Trump.
Yet it took the perspective and boldness that only certain artists possess to take a medium of the decorative realm and bring it to the world of fine art. Garrett’s luminous landscapes that fracture categorization are now featured by galleries and found in private collections in both this country and abroad.
Modern-day Venetian plaster had its origins in the construction of villas and churches in the lagoon waters of Venice. It replicated the appearance of marble without the dangers of its weight. It is a combination of ground marble and lime, emulsified into a silky consistency. Each of Garrett’s pieces is made of multiple colored layers of Venetian plaster, applied with a variety of trowels, plastering blades and knives.
They are paintings devoid of paint, created without a single bristled brush.”
At early and late stages, Garrett will purposefully wash away surface areas, revealing hidden hues and creating a subtle interplay of color and tone.
The final phases include a vigorous polishing that not only produces a glossy appearance, but also draws out color. A varnish is applied to seal the work and add a desired luster. Garrett intends the works to be frame-less, hung as if floating away from the wall. For this he uses sheets of birch wood ply to form the main support with a hidden frame structure behind.
For some works, such as Steel Drum Palm, Garrett builds trees using recycled steel collected from an industrial factory. Spiral metal pieces, remnants from the cutting of the lathe, comprise the majority of the trunk and branches. Due to the multiplicity of items manufactured, the remnants offer myriad forms of corkscrew-like pieces with diverse metallic surfaces and varying flexibility. Fragments and shavings are then selected for the foliage, including a scattering of broken tempered glass. Once complete, the work is forever sealed in lacquer.
Garrett’s exhibition is on view at The Hidden Lantern Gallery in Rosemary Beach through June 9, 2012.
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