April showers have finally yielded May flowers. The Southern sun cascades down the cobblestone streets of downtown and the vast, beautiful scenery of Wrightsville Beach. While we welcome the warmer temperatures, the allergies seem to annoy. Yet, currently on display at New Elements Art Gallery hangs a great consolation—and without the use of Claritin.
“Organic Matter” features the work of Raleigh-based artists Kristen Dill and Kevin Bass, who both capture the colors, vibrancy and beauty of their natural surroundings. The two artists enjoy painting outside, but they operate on two opposite ends of the spectrum: Bass—whose work is abstract and gestural—contrasts and expertly complements Dill’s more impressionistic, realistic renderings. Although their styles differ, Bass and Dill both create works that express unique visions of nature.
Kevin Bass grew up in Southern Pines, NC. His advantageous location as a youngster provided him access to explore both the mountains and the coast. Always interested in the arts, Bass’ passion really began to evolve while attending Appalachian State University. He garnered a zest for the outdoors through nature explorations, which opened up new possibilities for his art.
At first his creations comprised an impressionistic style to capture the landscape around him, but studying art history indoctrinated his keen interest in the abstract. Bass began to explore techniques by merging the two styles together. His new works are completely conceptual.
“My work is deeply influenced by the mountains [and] flowers growing on a hillside or in a garden, and by the waves as they crash on the shore,” he comments. “I soak up that visual information and then transfer those thoughts, feelings and images to my canvas.”
Bass’s work is textural, too, and combines acrylic and natural elements. “Texture, surface treatments, and color are very important aspects of my work,” he describes. “[They allow] for each painting to have a very profound and compelling presence.”
Approaching his work with an organized process, Bass layers paint over his original concept. “It helps to lay the foundation for the initial imagery and paves the way for the following applications of other mediums,” he explains.
The following phases of his process incorporate a rhythmic application; he uses an expressionistic brushstroke to create balance and surface tension. He applies and removes layers of paint before adding elements such as sand and mica—evoking a sense of all that’s found in nature.
“As the artist making the work, the unpredictability and potential discovery is very exciting,” Bass states. “My ultimate goal is to create an impactful body of abstract art that engages the viewer.”
In contrast to his notional, experimental approach, Kristen Dill’s impressionistic watercolors represent naturalistic inspiration. Quickly creating paintings so as to accurately depict the sunlight, her pieces possess an immediate vibrancy and vitality.
“I am drawn to paint something because of stimulus, which may be a unique shape or an evocation of a feeling,” she muses. “The painting becomes an expression which crystallizes psychological insight.”
Dill found her draw toward nature after graduating from the University of Southern Maine. Subsequently, she spent five years there, exposed to the countryside landscapes previously captured by great American artists like Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.
“I was drawn to and inspired by Homer’s ability to evoke a sense of physical immediacy, and Hopper’s expressive color and bold design,” Dill says.
Finding ingenuity across the U.S., she has lived and worked in Dallas, Memphis, and now Raleigh. During the summer, Dill makes her home in Moose Pond in Bridgton, TN, where she experiences direct access to nature. Her old screen porch becomes a studio, much in the way Hopper and Homer worked. Using both oils and watercolors she cultivates striking, visually gripping works.
“I paint to capture the ephemeral quality of nature and make it a shared visual experience,” Dill professes. “[I focus] mostly on organic shapes and layer vibrant color to intensify the viewer’s awareness.”
In celebration of the dissipation of winter, “Organic Matter” hones in on the natural world through two contrasting vantage points. This will be the final week it’s on display at New Elements Gallery.
Work by Kevin Bass and Kristen Dill
Hangs through May 17th
New Elements Gallery
201 Princess Street
Tues. – Sat., 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.