Drawing is terminal. A line that travels destined to be painted over, become architecture, music or sculpture. Inherent to drawing is a departure riddled with fear of committing, exposure, psychology, and time.
- Kelly Wallace
June 28, 2015
By Edith Newhall
Seraphin Gallery smartly asked one of its artists, Hiro Sakaguchi, to organize a summer show.
The result, “Debris,” was likely initially inspired by the work of two other Seraphin artists, Joan Wadleigh Curran, who paints still lifes of debris she finds in Philadelphia, and Kelly Wallace, an artist based in London, Ontario, whose pencil drawings depict real and imagined landscapes that appear composed of mountains of rubble and houses in the process of ruination. But with the additions of Brent Wahl, Sherif Habashi, and himself, Sakaguchi offers a broader view of the stuff that piles up, including memories.
Wadleigh Curran’s four paintings, all from 2015, show her using more colors together, painting more expressionistically, and portraying odder perspectives of windblown trash.
I’d seen Wahl’s photographs of debris arranged on black surfaces before (they’re all from 2012), but they certainly belong in this show. His careful organizations of the trash and refuse he finds and collects at various sites in the city elevate these castoffs to a mysterious beauty.
At first, Sherif Habashi’s calligraphic paintings on paper struck me as the least debris-related of the works in this show, because his lines are so delicate and reminiscent of Sufi painting. But the expressionistic doodles he paints also have something in common with hobo symbols and graffiti. And his faint Self-portrait with cinderblock motif looks like an impression, something left behind.
Sakaguchi’s paintings hadn’t ever made me think specifically of debris until I saw his painting and drawing in this show, both titled Preparation for Spring. In both, what appear to be cherry trees wrapped in burlap waiting to be planted are plonked atop an urban landscape reduced to a rubble of infrastructure that includes children’s toys. It suggests a child’s memory of an event as revisited years later in a nightmare. The atmosphere is Pepto-Bismol pink, thick with dust, and undoubtedly toxic.
Though tiny and rendered in pencil, Wallace’s similarly ominous drawing of imploding row-houses, Sticks nstones, also seems to have emanated from a child’s view of a long-ago event.
September 20-22, 2013
October 3, 2013
For quite some time, drawing has been considered the lesser medium, not a medium in itself, but a means to a greater end, a transition medium, let’s say. Fortunately, that is less and less the case. Take for example, Kelly Wallace’s Dead Reckoning at Seraphin Gallery, through October 27.
For Kelly Wallace, drawing is about… well, drawing. His work is about the process and about the connection between medium and surface. As Wallace’s work demonstrates, no other medium affords such levity, immediacy and simplicity to thrive unencumbered. There is no artifice, and there are no excessive embellishments in his drawings. If I were to describe Wallace’s works in two words, I would say controlled momentum. Wallace allows drawing to speak and to develop; the lead to layer; and the surface to absorb.
In my view, Wallace strikes the right balance between control, precision and momentum. Varying from as small as 8”x13” to an impressive 56”x91” six-panel composition, Kelly Wallace’s drawings are the product of an investigation into the drawing process. As I learned on my visit to the gallery, this process – of discovering and perfecting the right balance between medium and surface – took him many years. Using pencil lead or archival ink, his heavily layered, complex drawings are created on very thick paper mounted on birch panels or on marble-gesso prepared surfaces. The drawings are pristine and precise, and they seem calculated, yet the images are never edited, and are largely composed in the moment, driven by intuition alone.
Wallace relieves his drawings of the burden of creating with a specific narrative in mind. At a first look, the drawings appear to be depictions of rubble, trash, and dirt, or vast landscapes of devastation. On closer inspection, it becomes more apparent that the imagery is there to support the act of drawing, almost as a prop: subject and medium exchange roles. The almost unrecognizable and largely imagined landscapes reveal the artist’s power of intuition as well as his control. In some of his drawings, such as Level Grounds, he uses only vertical lines, which demonstrates the his wish to push the act of drawing to its limits by restraining his actions and options as much as possible. This meticulous and well thought out practice, creates a stunning duality in his drawings whose results are images that are extremely detailed and precise, but elusive: they evade any particular description. The eye of the viewer constantly moves around, absorbed by the variety and multitude of lines, while the mind wanders, searching for something recognizable, for a suggested meaning.
Wallace’s drawings put you in a state of suspense at first, but manage to force you to rest and absorb each line and each shape. As I walked away, I was pleased that there is no narrative, nor must there always be one; drawing itself was enough. The precision and unusual control of the artist’s practice is what allows for that liberty of not having to engage by means of prescribed content or tell a story. The process is the subject, the medium is the hero.
For galleries, showing works on paper is a challenge: they do not sell as well, they are hard to store, the number of interested collectors is painfully small. Showing works on paper, and especially drawing, is not for the faint of heart nor for anyone too concerned with popularity. Drawing is not just a secondary medium anymore, but as with anything, it takes a long time for viewers to become comfortable with something that is not mainstream. People are followers, and people are crowd pleasers. I applaud Seraphin Gallery, and other galleries alike in Philadelphia, for stepping out of their comfort zone and away from the too often stale standard repertoire. I am glad that there are idealists still out there. The art world needs them.
January 15, 2013
By Kim Neudorf
Highly controlled, self-generating compositions in graphite on board make up the majority of Kelly Wallace's recent work currently on view at Michael Gibson Gallery. The drawings depict fictional landscapes in various states of fragmentation, which the artist in part seems to equate with the formal conceit of repeated vertical lines, breaking every drawing into intricate segments that mimic their own rigid pixilation.
In an artist talk during the opening, Wallace stated a devotion to the "slowness" of drawing space compared to cinematic space. He explained how combining the unpredictable motion of drawn line with mathematic precision could evoke/simulate such close attention. These comments had the affect of an earworm, as if the exhibition had suddenly been saturated with laundromat/grocery aisle lite rock via the mid-to-late-70s (preferably a few dreaded, dogged Doobie Brothers hits). Amidst this conventional backdrop, I was surprised by a few of the works' insistence on opening up a temporal, inclusive space of drawing on its own terms.
In six drawings of trees and water in a range of sizes, Wallace's self-imposed rules seem to dissolve into a suggestion of potential, rather than mechanical, landscape. One of the smallest drawings turns the organic into a wild pattern, appearing at first as if from an aerial view, and then as if composed through the perspective of a Medieval tapestry. In another, the merged boundaries of drawn line and texture seem to avoid being merely clichéd effects. In both drawings, line and tone are bare, subtle plays between landscape as a genre and as a space for thought.
By Courtney Jordan
April 29, 2010
To watch video please click here
By Kathy Rumleski
London artist Kelly Wallace's exhibition TERMINAL is a beginning and an end wrapped in comforting, yet complex media, unlike anything most of us have seen.
For 10 years, Wallace has been perfecting his process of working with graphite, at a rate as high as 2,000 strokes per minute, to create drawings that become sculptures and capture a fully imagined, multi-perspective image.
It's a point of departure and moving forward and yet there is a termination point here.
"The idea of TERMINAL is a formal arrival and departure for the viewer and for me as the artist," Wallace says.
He has worked on these pieces, which are elaborate natural and man-made landscapes, for a minimum of 3,000 hours a year for 10 months each year and five hours a day, five days a week.
"They take a lot of time so they're my friends. I make a huge sacrifice socially to do this. I get to know them rather intimately," Wallace says.
It was only in the last couple of years that he made "cold calls" to galleries by sending e-mails to art directors that he figured would be receptive, understand what he created and his unique technique and depth of exploration.
"I figured it would take 10 years if I went through the normal channels. I decided studio time for that 10 years would guarantee me good work.
"I had to do a bit of research as to where my drawings might fit."
The Seraphin Gallery in Philadelphia was soon calling and that gallery now represents him. The solo exhibition in his hometown -- his coming out party locally in a big way -- means a lot to him.
"I am grateful to (curator) Melanie (Townsend) for being open to this."
While looking at the chaos of destruction, in the pockets of darkness in these works, there is also serenity and calmness.
"There are two subjects here," Wallace says, as he discusses Capital Salvage(2009). "One is implosions and the other is explosions. They create internal questions in the viewer, but questions that create sombre or calm. They are ethereal."
Wallace, who has a fine arts degree from the University of Guelph, also works in ink and his ink drawings have a beautiful hue.
Interestingly, the ink on paper will disappear a few decades from now.
"Ballpoint pen is not light fast so it's being eaten by UV as we speak."
He likes the immediacy of working with his pen.
"There is a link between ink and bombs. How fast the ink moves around the work, illuminates the labour of the way I make marks.
He also refers to his graphites as weapons.
"I use very, very hard graphites. They shred paper. I need to build with layering the light tone of that graphite up to a point where I've been careful not to punish the paper."
Drawing is a forward motion, and for Wallace drawing is a first step and a last step. It's not just preparatory work.
"Drawings are always condemned to be drawings. They're not, in some circles, even considered to be fine art. The idea of it being terminal is that it ends up being a drawing."
Wallace will be giving a walk-through tour of his exhibition on Sunday at the museum.
He wants his viewers to consider what is truth. "(They) accept what they see as the truth and it isn't necessarily. We carry on what we've learned. There is more to this."
Wallace said he leaves each subject alone once he's explored it in his art and finished the work. That means the pieces in this show don't necessarily fit together.
"I intend these (works) to be as different from each other as possible. That is counter-productive to exhibiting. People like it when it all makes sense."
Yet they do work together at first glance. It is only when taking each piece in more fully, do we realize the story of each.
It's also his contemporary approach to an old art form that makes us look longer and harder.