It’s easy to get lost staring at an optically illusive image. Whether it’s a typical, twirly spiral pattern or a conglomerate of shapes of a 3-D effect, optical illusions perplex and have us question our own perceptions of reality. The layers that comprise artist Bob Bryden’s printed works are carefully structured to give the impression of movement, disguise hidden images, and ultimately remind us things are often much more intricate than they initially appear.
Bryden’s new show, “Graphically Speaking,” opens on Thursday, Mar. 9, at Flytrap Brewing in downtown Wilmington. Local jazz musician Sean Howard will provide the ambiance with his bass guitar, while 2 Bros Coastal Cuisine will offer refreshments from their food truck as guests immerse themselves into Bryden’s work.
“My basic process is that I overlay very simple patterns,” the artist explains. “My work is very minimal in the sense there are no images, other than hidden ones created by the patterns themselves.”
Bryden’s path to becoming the artist he is today is just as layered as his own creations. Originally from the Piedmont region of North Carolina, Bryden received his undergraduate degree from Guilford College in Greensboro.
“Most of my undergraduate work was in Asian philosophy,” he states. “Some of my undergraduate studies involved photography and film work, which is how I became interested in photo and silk-screen printing.”
Bryden largely focused on furthering his academic studies upon receiving his undergraduate degree, until he decided to get back into the art field. Eventually, he obtained his master’s from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. His career thereafter helped propel his work, too.
“I’ve been in a lot of different fields,” Bryden says, “primarily in graphic design and commercial printing. When I wasn’t doing graphic design full-time, I was doing art and carpentry work. Since I have a printmaking background, I use a lot of those techniques—not to produce additions but create one-of-a-kind pieces.”
Bryden utilizes a strong background in both design and academics when planning his next project. In turn, his creativity and intellect reveal themselves through meticulously engineered work.
“Although the designs do look serendipitous, they are all very well-planned,” he notes. “When I set out to do them I already know exactly what colors I’m going to overprint and the colors I’m going to combine. Sometimes, I will do small color studies before I do a print to see how different colors interact. I’m really after the cumulative effect of juxtaposing the colors and their energy effects.”
Most of the patterns are made up of lines or dots in simplistic color schemes, but the heavily layered designs are constructed with the functionality of the human eye in mind. As the eyes and mind work together to process each layer of the image, the illusion of movement takes over otherwise stationary prints.
“The printmaking techniques usually involve me rolling ink onto a textured surface,” he explains, “and then, either printing that surface directly onto paper, or picking up the pattern with a clean roller and printing the roller back onto the paper. The roller gives you more control over ink.”
Bryden’s creative process is carried out in his home studio in the Port City, where he is surrounded by woods and wildlife. Each largely serves as inspiration for most of the color palettes in his work. The sunlight constantly shining through the abundance of bare windows offer a clearer vision when he works.
“I’m creating color fields, and energy fields, as I like to think, with the patterns,” Bryden says. “I find they’re fun, and I’m inviting the viewer to enjoy perceiving and seeing things in a unique way.”
Even Bryden’s pieces created with the fluidity of watercolors posses a sense of logic and structure. “I start with a very severe frame,” he tells. “Then I put a lot of energy into the designs within that frame, which actually makes the image even more active.”
For the chance to meet Bryden and challenge senses of perception, readers can head to Flytrap Brewing on Thursday at 6 p.m. for the opening reception of “Graphically Speaking.”