Behind the Canvas – Paintings by American Artist Jerry Iverson

One of the contrasting concepts in Asian art is the appreciation for ‘asymmetrical balance’. Ikebana, a form of flower arranging, is known for mimicking and highlighting the beauty in nature. The main technique being to make sure that the left and the right sides, or the top and bottom, of each composition are never the same. We also see the same in when it comes to Western versus Japanese gardens. Western gardens are traditionally symmetrical, where as Japanese gardens are the complete opposite.

The careful adjustment in size, shape, and colour, as well as the placement of elements gives the appearance of lacking a formula. Of course this greater freedom generally leads to a more creative composition, adding variety and also emotion. This emotive element is so important. Matching with the complex feelings that arise from within us as we try to find our place in this world.

American artist Jerry Iverson uses the materials, balance and grace found in Asian calligraphy in particular to highlight his own expression. Working in a series, Iverson uses sumi ink, paper and rabbit skin glue to build a distressed, uneven texture. The torn and broken black lines create an interesting balance that’s fascinating to ponder.

The ‘Windows’ series plays with a surrounding black box that is shifted, tilted and broken to divide the canvas. As referenced in the name, ‘Windows’ offers us a space to look through, and this is partly through concept and the natural style of the art itself.

Thanks to the unevenness there’s a sense of inviting the viewer to participate in the art. Leading the eye and evoking a sense of flow and movement that makes you want to interpret the content yourself. To find a sense of meaning in it. What does all of this mean?

This quote by Okakura Kakuzo from The Book of Tea inspired me, “True beauty, then, could be discovered only by one who mentally completed the incomplete.” It’s an interesting quote to consider. Maybe the illusion created by art makes us believe in the reality hidden behind the canvas. But there is nothing behind it — this is the reality itself. There isn’t a much more powerful realisation than that.


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