By Nicole Bray, posted February 2, 2017
Walking into Russell Tyler’s studio is an absolute treat for the eyes as you’re greeted with an array of colorful and luscious canvases. A master of color and movement, Tyler draws upon our art historical forefathers of Abstract Expressionism, the Sublime, and Minimalism. Tyler works in three different styles, yet they all look and feel unquestionably connected: minimalist forms with expressive gestures, expressive abstraction of instinct and chance, and abstract forms derived from nature.
Tyler is a gifted colorist. Period. He skillfully introduces colorful markings on the canvas, creating playful and mesmerizing combinations both purposefully and by chance. Drawing from the Abstract Expressionists he works in a very physical process. Tyler applies both oil and acrylic paint with a brush, his fingertips, or throws and drips the paint on the upright canvas. The unplanned automatism of the paint hitting the canvas and the subconscious creation of forms are counteracted through the purposeful selection of color and the defined border surrounding each painting. The rigidity of the border specifically acts as a tool to control the chaos on the canvas and remind us that the artist has created a closed playing field where chance and imperfection can create perfection.
Tyler’s minimalist paintings draw from Joseph Albers and Mark Rothko in their repetitive rectilinear forms. Where Albers was seeking perfection in the line and experimenting with color combinations, Tyler purposefully hand paints the lines so the imperfection, or wonkiness, is visible and experiments with varying shades of the same color. The subtly in the color and the repetitive forms might remind the viewer of a Rothko canvas and its meditative pull. However, the gestural brushstroke, the evidence of fingers being dragged through the paint, or a drip of contrasting color, breaks the viewers interaction and draws them in to examine the intricate evidence of the artist’s hand at play.
Growing up in Hawaii and Vancouver, B.C., the vitality of nature and its luscious colors can be seen in Tyler’s natural abstracts. The organic shapes, the intermixing of vibrant colors, and the flatness of form, takes us back to the paintings of Matisse and Gauguin. The flower shapes, emblematic of the Matisse cut outs, sink into the canvas to create a stunning abstraction yet they’re lifted by the texture of the brushstroke or the impasto of the paint.
Russell Tyler’s show Strange Variants opens at Denny Gallery on February 28th.