Artist Spotlight: Mark Tougias

Summer Reflections   20 x 24 oil
Summer Reflections 20 x 24 oil

Mark Tougias is a self-taught artist who has been busy painting since childhood. His earliest surviving drawings and paintings date back to when he was eight years old. From an early age he learned by studying the masters and at age sixteen he began exhibiting. Mark has exhibited in over forty galleries and has had over thirty-five one man shows. Among his numerous awards are the first Alden Bryan Gold Medal for best in show awarded in 2007 by the Bryan Memorial Gallery.

For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?

Thatʼs a big question! I like to think, and hope, that thereʼs a spiritual quality in my work. Something that goes beyond the non-literal. It may look like a pretty picture on first look but I want there to be more to it. For me the landscape is the vehicle for all kinds of human expression, emotion and spirituality. That could be still-lifes for somebody else, or it could be figures, for me right now itʼs the landscape. Iʼve always been an outdoors person.

Itʼs interesting that you bring up the spirituality of your work. In your biography you mention influences from: the Barbizon painters, American Tonalists, the Cape Ann School of Painters, and others, and its clear seeing a lot of those influences in your work. Some of those schools of painting, it sounds like they are trying to achieve the same thing as you through the landscape.

I think so, I think a good painter will try to achieve that either consciously or unconsciously. For me itʼs probably a little bit more conscious. It depends on the painting too. It might be a little more conscious that other painters, only because Iʼm not just concerned with a “pretty picture”. I donʼt know if my work reflects that. Iʼm not really free to judge, but I hope it transcends the scene. I have never been strictly a literal painter. For me there are a lot of other elements that come into play. Itʼs not an easy thing to talk about either because – how can you put these things into words? Although I do representational work Iʼm not a literal painter. Most of my paintings are not exact representations. Some are, and thatʼs OK. Others are changed around quite a bit to get the results that I want. Some are completely made up to get the results that I want. So Iʼm very wary of not just going out there and putting down what I see exactly all the time.

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The Lost Painting by Jonathan Haar

Some of my favorite books and movies are art related.  One of the first art novels I read was Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracey Chevalier.  It’s a novel about Johannes Vermeer, life in 17th century Delft, Holland and the girl who sat for his famous masterpiece.  The movie starring Scarlett Johansson & Colin Firth was also very well done and seemed to employ Vermeer-type lighting.

Since Girl with a  Pearl Earring, many other art novels have been written.  One of my favorites, is The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr.  Harr is the author of A Civil Action and professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.  In this book, Harr weaves a detective-type fictional story, based on solid documentation, about a priceless Caravaggio masterpiece, The Taking of Christ c. 1602, which had been missing for two centuries.  As you may surmise from the title of the book, the painting is discovered.

lost painting cover

The book revolves around Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Caravaggio scholars (I was not aware, but there are thousands), conservators and the incredible records from the European archives.   It also gives an inside look into the dealings of museums and galleries, as well as  the conservation process and it’s associated pitfalls.

As the story unfolds, a clue discovered by a graduate student while scouring some European archives, leads to the search for the painting.  The archived documentation indicated that the painting was located somewhere in the UK.

In addition to the original Taking of Christ, there were also 12 known copies of the painting, some believed to have been painted by Caravaggio, his students, or his  “studio help”.  One of the copies was stolen in 2008 from the Odessa Museum in Ukraine and later recovered when the thieves tried to sell it in Germany.

damaged copy stolen from Odessa, Ukraine in 2008Caravaggio_-_Taking_of_Christ_-_Odessa,_damaged

As the search for the original  painting intensifies, a Caravaggio scholar/conservator is called by a monastery in Ireland to look at a painting which required cleaning and restoration.  When the conservator sees the painting, he immediately knows what he has found, the long-lost Caravaggio, the Taking of Christ.  The conservator does not reveal his discovery to the monastery.

The story now changes direction and delves into the analysis of the painting to prove it’s authenticity.  To completely verify this, the conservator wanted to acquire  another Caravaggio and take a minute fleck of paint for analysis and comparison to confirm the painting was painted by Caravaggio himself.  Acquiring another Caravaggio to make this comparison was a difficult task which took many months of negotiations with the museums of the UK.   Finally, another Caravaggio is acquired on loan.   However, when the painting arrived, any material analysis had been cleverly precluded by the loaning institution.

Eventually, a conclusive determination is made that the painting is indeed the original Taking of Christ, and the conservation process is started.  During the initial restoration, improper materials were used which caused major, near catastrophic problems.  The painting required a second restoration in a more appropriate manner using the materials of Caravaggio’s era.  Astoundingly, this restoration was also seriously botched again and a third and final restoration was required.

Today the painting resides in the National Gallery of Ireland, on permanent loan from the monastery.

For me & many others, the book is a page-turner. Learning about Caravaggio, the scholars, the archives, the conservation process and some of the dealings between museums,  was very interesting & informative.

774px-The_Taking_of_Christ-Caravaggio_(c.1602)

The image of the Taking of Christ.  Caravaggio painted himself in many of his paintings.  The man at the far right with the dark beard holding the lantern which illuminates the scene is believed to be Caravaggio.

 

by Jim Gallugi

 

 

Art as Social Network

We have become accustomed in the 21st century to the term ‘social network,’ and often think it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Interestingly, the term ‘social network’ arose in the late 19th century as a new method to study human interaction, usually defined as the relational communication of individuals or groups with shared values and interests. Our contemporary proclivity to understand social networking as a condition of modern technology is an accurate reflection of the enormous role social media plays in connecting us, but there are important distinctions compared to the networks of the last century. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and myriad apps on our smart phones, weave us in ways that are deeply personal, but also startlingly anonymous. Much of our networking is with millions of unknown people, some real, some fabricated; today, technologies have become the relational mechanism, encouraging ephemeral, passive postings and simple ‘likes’, with only a modicum of shared values and interests, other than a seemingly universal desire for visibility in a world of immense complexity and a tsunami of background noise.

Nonetheless, technology can be used to develop genuine communities of interest, and this inaugural blog, the first of several on behalf of the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, Vermont, will focus on a social network that conforms to the more personal, shared ideas and values of the original term. The social network in question is ancient: the relationship between individuals and societies with art: the objects of artistic expression that include paintings, sculpture, photography, and other visual representations that comprise our culture. This network has existed for tens of thousands of years, and while the representations of artistic creation can significantly change, many of the elements of our relationship with and through art remain constant.
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Artist Spotlight: Susan Larkin

Across the Water November Morning
Across the Water November Morning

Susan Larkin is a landscape painter who makes her home in the Lake Champlain Islands in Vermont.  She works in oil and pastel, and has painted for over 10 years. Susan paints primarily in and around the Champlain Islands, where she lives, with an occasional trip east to the towards Mount Mansfield and the surrounding farmlands and rivers.  Her primary goal is to record impressions of what she sees in the landscape through light and color.

Susan has been displaying her work at the Bryan Gallery since 2008. As of the date of this post she has work in the Land, Light, Water and Air exhibit as well as the legacy gallery. All the images included in this post are available at the Bryan Gallery at the time of this writing.

For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?
I guess its kind of an expressive impressionist. I try to paint with not too much detail. I’m trying to get looser, I feel like I’m not as loose as I’d like to be, but I suppose it’s a lot looser than some people’s painting. That’s what I’m more interested in is the impressionistic quality and painterly feel. I stick to landscapes, I don’t usually have any figures in my landscapes and I don’t know why. Most of what I paint is around where I live, the area around the Champlain Islands. Water, sky, fields.

What are your goals in painting what you paint?
My goals are to do more with less. That’s probably been my goal since I started., to simplify, simplify, simplify. At least in terms of the actual painting itself. And what I want paintings to look like. I tend to gravitate to artists who do paint very simply and almost abstractly. I like to learn more about color, I seem to be really interested in how color works and how light works, and trying to teach myself more deeply about color theory. Learning how colors work differently together to create different atmospheric vibrations, things like that. I’ve found that I gravitate to explore more challenges with color.

In your artist statement you mention painting “where the landscape is illuminated by the reflection of the lake”. Can you talk about painting where you feel the light is different versus painting other places.
I used to live on Cape Cod I think when I first took my first trip up Route 2 into the Champlain Islands, I lived in Southern Vermont at the time, its very flat there and there is a brilliance that I remembered from Cape Cod. The ocean just reflects the light all over the place, its very bright, and I remember Van Gogh talking about that when he was painting in France. Where it was so bright it hurt his eyes. It was intense, and that is how I felt about the Cape and then when I went up into the Islands I had that same experience where things seem to be more illuminated. I guess its because of the reflection of light off the lake that there seems to be more of a vibration of atmosphere going on. Its hard to find words for it but I recognized it when I saw it, and that’s what made me want to get up there and live where I live now.
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Welcome to the Bryan Memorial Gallery Blog

Welcome to Bryan Memorial Gallery’s revised and refreshed BLOG, bringing you behind the scenes at the gallery. The more information we provide our artists, patrons, guests and visitors, the more questions they have: about the artists, the artwork, how something was done, where the idea for a show was initiated, and always, what’s next? So my part of this rejuvenated BLOG initiative will take you “back stage” where we put shows together, starting now.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.35.28 PM

If you’ve ever been at The Bryan for an Artist’s Roundtable Discussion you’ve heard me say that we couldn’t do it without our “A” Team*. These volunteers install our exhibits and after years of doing so, have it down to a science, although they always welcome new members of the team.

They usually arrive at the gallery on Monday morning before an opening. Within an hour, they have dismantled the prior show in the Main Gallery, brought the artwork for the next show out of the vault and are starting to talk about an approach to hanging the show. Jim and I may offer a few “coach’s tips,” telling them what to expect in terms of the idiosyncrasies of that particular show, but they are off and running quickly.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.33.08 PM

An assembly line of measuring, drilling, inserting screws, cables, and tagging is set up in the middle of the room, and by lunchtime, the installation is definitely starting to take shape. The “anchor” pieces are among the first chosen to be installed. Those are usually the paintings in 4 – 6 key locations around which other works are installed. While not all larger pieces are anchors and not all anchors are larger works, more often than not the anchor pieces have been obvious as the work as the works were delivered. Next time you’re at the gallery, look for the anchors.

Continue reading Welcome to the Bryan Memorial Gallery Blog