ERIC G. THOMPSON: (Im)perfection

Eric Thompson- Contemporary Realism- Matthews Gallery Blog

A sun bleached rocking chair, the wind weathered facade of an old house, and a pair of muddy gardening clogs. To the average viewer, these objects warrant little more than a casual glance. Utah artist Eric G. Thompson captures them in stunning detail with oil, watercolor and egg tempera paint, guided by a centuries-old Japanese aesthetic.

“Objects have spirit. An old cup is like a person,” says Eric. Like the characters of the objects, figures and houses he paints, Eric’s technique was refined through life experience. He is completely self-taught, and believes this process has led him to find a unique voice and vision, through perseverance, trial and error. A painter since 1989, he now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah and has been selling his work professionally since 2002. He paints from his travels and the treasures discovered along the way, deftly switching mediums depending on the mood he wishes to convey.

Eric Thompson- Before Breakfast 2- Matthews Gallery Blog

Eric’s artwork possesses an elegant serenity that often stops our visitors in their tracks. The allure lies in the way he plays with light, illuminating beautiful details but also revealing hints of entropy and decay. This careful balance between order and chaos is drawn from the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, a major influence on Thompson’s work. The tradition encourages appreciation of imperfection, age and patina, often referred to as “flawed beauty.”

Come delight in Eric’s perfect imperfection at ‘Eric G. Thompson: New Works‘, opening Friday, August 14 and running through August 28. Click here for more information, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more gallery news.

Eric Thompson- Even Flow- Matthews Gallery Blog

Advertisements

The Boundless Moment: Words and Images

Eric Thompson- The Photographer- Matthews Gallery blog

 Eric G. Thompson, The Photographer, Oil on Linen

For the past week, excited art pilgrims—determined to visit every gallery on Canyon Road—have marched purposefully into our front room and come to a screeching halt. Our Eric G. Thompson show ‘The Boundless Moment‘ is a little different from most of the exhibitions you’ll see on this famous art route. Accompanying many of Thompson’s serene realist paintings are writings by great American poets, from Elizabeth Bishop to Walt Whitman.

The interplay of words and images has compelled viewers to slow down and look twice, sparking many a fascinating observation. Most notably, journalist Alison Oatman of the Weekly Alibi attended our opening and wrote an elegant, poetry-filled review of the show.

Eric G. Thompson- Coffee Shop Girl- Matthews Gallery blog

Eric G. Thompson, Coffee Shop Girl, Oil on Panel

An excerpt from Oatman’s article:

Robert Lowell’s “Epilogue” [is] paired with the painting “Coffee Shop Girl.” Lowell writes: “I hear the noise of my own voice:/ The painter’s vision is not a lens,/ it trembles to caress the light” [emphasis original]. These lines are reflected in the Coffee Shop Girl’s illuminated face—as pale as rice paper.

Later on, the poem continues: “Pray for the grace of accuracy/ Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination/ stealing like the tide across a map/ to his girl solid with yearning.” Though large sunglasses hide her face and her meager mouth is expressionless, the Coffee Shop Girl is ravenous. We see her frayed emotional state in the feathery brushstrokes in the background, the squirming reddish-brown tendrils of her ponytail, and the sparkling clusters of dandelion-like fur attached to the hood of her puffy coat.

We spoke with Thompson on the phone today to fill him in on the big response his show has received. The artist was in Santa Fe last week for the opening reception, but now he’s back home in Salt Lake City, Utah. The long drive home gave him time to gather some thoughts on the exhibition. Read our interview below, and make sure to come see ‘The Boundless Moment‘ before it closes on August 28!

Eric G. Thompson- Half Light- Matthews Gallery blogEric G. Thompson, Half Light, Oil on Canvas

Describe your studio. 

My studio is just a few feet away from my house. It has windows with good natural light, so sometimes I can turn off the light and still get what I need. Sometimes I’ll set up my daughter‘s easel next to mine, and we’ll work next to each other. She gets to see what her dad does. Most of the time the kids aren’t allowed in the studio, though. I’ll play underground folk music, and when I’m really inspired it feels like the music is flowing straight through my brush.

You work in oil, egg tempera and watercolor. How do you choose which medium to use for a new painting? 

Between the three of them, if I want to capture something a little more loose and light I go for watercolor. If I want to capture something very solid, heavy and thick I’ll go with oil. If I want to capture something a little more photorealistic, I go with egg tempera. It gives you a lot of freedom to express the story or the emotion that you’re trying to convey with each medium.

It can be refreshing, but it can also be almost maddening. They’re all so different, it’s unbelievable. You have to switch your brain around and remember how to use that medium. It can be completely challenging, which I love. That’s one of the greatest thing about painting, is the challenge. I can always let a painting go as long as I have another challenge.

Eric G. Thompson- Nestled- Matthews Gallery

Eric G. Thompson, Nestled, Oil on Panel

Alison Oatman’s review in The Alibi begins with, “One question contemporary realist painters often get is, ‘Why not simply take a photograph?'” Over the course of the article, she critiques that particular line of thought. What’s your answer to that question? 

To a lot of artists, it’s not a great compliment when a viewer says, “That looks just like a photograph.” Maybe to a photorealist that would be flattering, but I think the greatest artists of all time have that balance of, it looks like a painting but it looks so ‘real.’ I’ve made it come to life.

Why does someone need a painting to look just like a photograph? What’s the power in that? Technically it’s amazing, but where’s the artistic freedom? I need artistic license to change things and blur edges and sharpen edges and change value to make it more ethereal.

I can make a painting look like a photograph but then there’s no energy, there’s no life to it. I think just adding a little more energy with brushstrokes or texture brings it more to life.

One of your influences is the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. How would you describe it? 

It’s what an object has been through, who used it, who touched it. It’s the patina objects acquire over time, like the rust on an oil can. It just adds to the whole character of the object—I see them as little characters. A cup on a windowsill, an oil can or even pumpkins can have little lives of their own.

Your works seem still at first glance, but a longer look gives me a sense of ‘unfolding,’ of motion. Is that one of our goals?  

It’s about capturing a moment in time that I’d like to freeze and experience for longer than the experienced moments.

I’ve definitely been experimenting with looser brushstrokes toward the outer edges of the painting to give it some energy. I need to experiment to see if I can get the perfect balance of detail and looseness. It’s a way of pushing myself as an artist, and it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted.

Eric G. Thompson- Winter Moon- Matthews Gallery blogEric G. Thompson, Winter Moon, Watercolor

Which paintings in ‘The Boundless Moment’ are closest to your heart? 

A few of the watercolors are very powerful to me in an emotional way. Just reminding me of something in my past, at my Grandma’s house in Idaho. She had a farm with all of these different structures. They just remind me of that time, and different feelings come up from my childhood.

Raven’s Hair is a very powerful piece. It’s capturing this emotion of a woman laying on this bed. Her eyes are closed and she’s having a very pleasant thought. It seems to have some nice emotion to it.”

Morning Cup is a portrait of your wife Hilary, and inspired her to write a poem that we’re featuring in the show. Do you often inspire each other like that? 

 We’ve named my paintings every year for 12 years or more. We try to outdo each other with the most poetic titles. The title can say so much in just a couple words. What’s the best title, or the strongest? Hilary is amazing with words.

To learn more about Thompson’s show, connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

The Boundless Moment: All Together Now

Eric-Thompson-Artist-Family

Eric G. Thompson’s ‘The Boundless Moment
opens Friday, August 15 from 5-7 pm
and closes August 28.

Eric and Hilary Thompson’s daughters dash around Matthews Gallery, exploring their father’s new solo exhibition ‘The Boundless Moment.’ They’ve just finished a long car ride from Salt Lake City but they’re bursting with energy.

Over the past year the children have grown alongside these canvases and panels, watching as thousands of brushstrokes transformed into rolling landscapes and rosy skin. Now these familiar images have magically appeared in our lofty, brightly lit space, sparking the girls’ curiosity. They stop before each work, craning their necks to get a good look.

The girls’ vivacity matches Hilary’s temperament. She keeps an eye on them as she chats and laughs with us. Eric is a quieter presence. He strolls around the gallery, analyzing the arrangement of the work and reading the legendary poems we paired with them. Eric likes to think of his paintings as ‘visual haikus,’ which inspired us to select writings by Frost, Dickinson, Lowell and others to display during the show.

‘The Boundless Moment’ is something of a family act. Hilary was Eric’s model for the painting ‘Morning Cup,’ and wrote an accompanying poem that will debut at the opening reception. ‘The Chiseled Mother’ is a passionate meditation on parenthood and aging. As Eric cradles one of his daughters in his arms, you can tell that he’s just as inspired by the radiant spirit of his children. 

Read Hilary’s poem below, and make sure to attend Eric’s artist reception on Friday, August 15 from 5-7 pm.

Eric G. Thompson- Morning Cup- Matthews Gallery blog Eric G. Thompson, Morning Cup, Oil on Panel

From Hilary Thompson:

The Chiseled Mother

I honor this body
This matryoshka

The delicate lines of my eyes
Like tissue paper
Crinkled from sun beams
Washboards slow the momentum
of tears

These ears, these conches
That entombed the beeping screaming alarms
Echoing endlessly on exhausted drives home
Mercifully quieting with age

Eric G. Thompson- Waiting for a Song- Matthews Gallery blog

 

Eric G. Thompson, Waiting for a Song, Oil on Panel

This mouth
Which broadcasts comforts, screeches, praise
Fractures the tightrope of vexation

These beautiful, perfect arms
That embraced defeat
Carried a child to the surgeon’s knife
Willing arms
That waved, furrowed, aching
Sturdy farewells

This heart that beats out
The anthem of the womb
I Am
I Am
I Am

Eric-Thompson-Art-CoffeeshopGirl

Eric G. Thompson, Coffee Shop Girl, Oil on Panel

A womb
That is the definition of Creation
Bringing forth what does not exist
Into existence
Torn out of me
With upheaval and sanguine waves of nurture

These knees that caught me
When my frame buckled
Unable to support my grief

These marks, stretched
Yawning tiger stripes
Where my body gave room
Shimmer as silver reminders of a past shape

EricGThompson-Art-Evening

Eric G. Thompson, Evening, Oil on Panel

These feet
Planted.  Supporting.
Rooted even in motion, substantial
Pacing halls, hospital rooms
Threshing carpets bare-threaded

I am the red rock slot canyon
Worn smooth, fissured, curved
Sculpted
By this flawed life

This body is a shrine
A Holy place, a pilgrimage
A masterpiece painted stroke by stroke
By the breathtakingly exquisite nourishment
Of not getting what I want.

Breathe that in,
Chiseled edifice of the Mother,
Slather it like salve into your stripes,
You silver tiger.

 Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about Eric G. Thompson.