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John King's "Kowloon Shimmer" (2007).

John King's "Kowloon Shimmer" (2007).


John King: Encaustic Paintings, Drawings, Prints.

At SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery. Shows through February 22.


For John McDevitt King, painting is more a way of life than a matter of furthering a specific agenda. The intimate, elusive images that populate his work bespeak a reverence for the individual example, the ephemeral incident, the thought the mind encounters on the precipice of action. “I’m intrigued by the gaps between thoughts,” he said, “the moments when things crystallize.” The subject matter in his works-which range in size, in this exhibit, from 12Ê°9Ê° to 50Ê°40Ê°-is diverse and mysterious. Some objects are readily identifiable: pine cones, umbrellas, snowflakes, a chair. Others hover on the periphery of identification, altered by imagination-a furry, luminous ladder, coiled rings, a cluster of suspended balls.

His “paintings” are actually painterly objects that incorporate drawing, collage, and encaustic-a medium composed of purified beeswax and damar resin-applied to wood panels. The imagery is generally rendered as drawing, either on paper, which is then affixed to the panels, or on the wood itself. Within the larger paintings, these drawings are suspended like thoughts adrift in a limitless mind.

In “Night’s Gambit,” a drawing of snowflakes and gemstones hovers above a copy collator, as if refusing to be sorted. In “Kowloon Shimmer,” a flurry of umbrellas jumbles across the panel beneath what could be a diving board from which two droplets hang suspended; rain is anticipated as a moment of sublime release.

Also exhibited is an assortment of drawings on hotel stationery that King has rendered throughout a period of years. Here again is the artist’s reverence for minutiae, his immersion in an artistic process that is more about discovery than strategy. A sheet from the Regency Hotel in Fairbanks, Alaska, bears a drawing of what could be mounds of snow or hills; the stationery of the Tamarack Beach Resort in Carlsbad, California, bears a rendering of what might be the trunks of potted palms penetrating an eye-like opening in the sky.

The quality of color in King’s paintings, he said, is less a conscious choice than a result of being honest about his feelings. Indeed, this work resonates with integrity-the commitment to listen, watch, feel, and express, without necessarily knowing why or being able to justify doing so. This exhibit offers an opportunity to set aside opinion and action, and to relax for a moment in the beauty of the unknowable.

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