The Wide Open Landscape – Abstract Paintings by Clay Johnson

One thing I find so interesting about simplicity, especially in art and design, is that as you take away the obvious flaws become so apparent. If the colour is slightly off or the shape is not quite right, each element stands out so that there really is nowhere to hide.

Abstract art is similar in this regard. If the piece is flat or overly simplistic where is the actual intrigue? Can it really enlighten or offer an experience to the viewer. All are important questions for any piece of design.

This is why I was so intrigued by the work of Wyoming-based painter Clay Johnson who has used his abstract art as a platform to showcase the wide open landscape of the American West. Using these slightly rustic and distressed surfaces, mixed with colours that represent the scenery and landscape in this region of America, he’s hit all the right notes in creating works of art that have many different dimensions.

An interesting component of Clay’s process are the layers that are built up, one by one overlapping, often choosing on the fly what to preserve and what he can do without so that it might influence our perception. This taking away adds depth and character, but there’s something quite pure that cuts through in the lines that run down each canvas. Almost as if they are windows that we’re able to peer through.

If only our eyes looked at the forgotten moments in the same way. Turning unremarkable moments in daily life in to remarkable ones, those that can alter our viewpoint and give us the ability to see the beauty in this world each and every day.


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