Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Neil Hollingsworth (update 2012)

Neil Hollingsworth
Looking at them in reproductions, some might be tempted to think of contemporary realist James Neil Hollingsworth’s refined still life paintings as photo-realistic, but I’ve never seen them that way.

To my eye Hollingsworth’s paintings are about the exploration of surfaces — metallic, wooden, smooth, textured, reflective, refractive, polished and tarnished.

His surfaces are always revealed by directional light, sweeping across objects, through spaces and bouncing through transparent and translucent materials.

Hollingsworth also seems to revel in the challenge of taking on different surfaces that can be difficult to paint, sometimes with intricate patterns and complex details, sometimes with entire sub-compositions reflected in curved objects, and sometimes mixtures of these characteristics.

He also, particularly in recent years, likes to play with dramatically placed compositions, moving his objects partly off the bottom of the canvas, for example, and leaving large negative spaces in the majority of the composition.

Hollingsworth has recently redone his website, with gallery sections for currently available work as well as archives from previous years. He also maintains a blog in which he discusses his work in progress.

For more, see my previous posts on Neil Hollingsworth, here and here. Hollingsworth is married to painter Karen Hollingsworth, who I have also written about here and here.

Hollingsworth’s work will be on display at Tree’s Place gallery in Orleans MA from July 14 to July 19, 2012, as part of a two person show along with the beautiful still life paintings of M. Collier, who I have also previously profiled.

8 thoughts on “Neil Hollingsworth (update 2012)

  1. Mark

    It is always a marvel to look upon the photo realistic. I don’t want to call it a, love/hate relationship I have with it but I have to admit I can stare for, what seems like,hours at one of those powerful JMW Turner seascapes, but seem to “get my fill” of the realist paintings in under a full minute all too often. My mind’s eye says “hey, that’s pretty cool, wow” then moves on along. I have to remind myself of the time spent and craftsmanship/skill involved…When art make me think too much (in a manner)it usually doesn’t enthrall me. I just want to look at and appreciate the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, I think about how they were done but don’t really care so much, it is that they were done that is key for me. Hmm, thanks for bringing these realist artist to my attention, perhaps my taste will grow for them more with more exposure…!

  2. Mark

    Lol, I hadn’t even noticed, see there, I refer to this as photo-realism even though it has been suggested that I modify that response!!! Well, we are all a work in progress.

  3. ceparie

    I admire the skill but most times, just can’t warm up to photo-realistic-ish work. I appreciate your remarks about the composition. Can’t explain it, but I admit to an attraction to that bowl of alphabet blocks, especially the emptiness of the picture plane.

  4. Alvin R.

    The grape painting is somewhat of a departure for Mr. Hollingswoth as it is void of a negative space. You get a crop view and the lighting becomes the primary source that makes everything worth exploring and magical. Most admirable!

  5. Karin Jurick

    I think what I appreciate most about Neil’s paintings is the rich, handsome beauty he sees in objects – recognizing the hours involved in choosing the subjects, setting up the perfect arrangement and lighting for photography, zeroing in on the ideal composition – all before he even starts the painting. These pieces go so beyond photo-realism. They are exquisite.

  6. Charley Parker Post author

    Thanks, Karen. I’ve never associated work like Hollingsworth’s with the “photo realist” paintings that came to the attention of the art world in the mid 20th century, and were first associated with the term, in which there was a coldness and detachment that is in many ways the opposite of Neil’s intense focus and involvement.

    Other readers who are familiar with Karin Jurick’s work will know that her opinion is from a painter who works in a very painterly manner. For the benefit of other readers, here is my most recent post on Karin Jurick.

  7. David J. Teter

    Charlie you said it with “…the exploration of surfaces…” and ” His surfaces are always revealed by directional light…”

    I have always thought that photo-realism gets a bad rap so to speak because most think it is simply copying from a photo or that there is none of ‘the artist in the work’, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
    I don’t confuse his work with any other or any photo for that matter, there is a very definitive artist ‘fingerprint’ here.

    I won’t even get into all the artistic principles, skills and knowledge that must be in place to do this work, nor do I need to.

    I look at these with the same relish he must have for wanting to put them to paint. I see great joy and maybe even some reverence in a subject of such apparent simplicity like his spoons as he pours all that subtle color, color temperature, shapes and time worn textures… all within the interior shape of the spoon itself.

    There is a lot to be said for great virtuoso brushwork (Sargent), paintings made up of chunky brushstrokes dancing across the surface (Van Gogh), definitive flashy ‘style’ (insert any name here) and all that but this is completely different way of seeing.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love all that too.

    I’ll bet that maybe even Vermeer would have been called a photo-realist painter had the camera (that takes a photo) been invented then, and we think no less of his work for it.
    In fact I would argue they both share the same… love of light for what it reveals, and doesn’t conceal, in the subjects.

    I had an instructor in art school who did photo realism work and he would point out that you really don’t see all there is to see until you stare at an object for extended periods of time, that is when you begin to see beyond the objects intrinsic value, I think that is going on here and is what Neil is showing us.

    I see much more than a photo in his work and other photo realists.
    I am always happy we don’t all work the same, that would be boring.

  8. Charley Parker Post author

    David, Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I also think that highly finished painting like this is artificially flattened out by being reproduced in a photograph, so the actual surface qualities are suppressed.

    (For the benefit of other readers, here is my post on David J Teter.)

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