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Chester County Press

Looking at the process of art, with dazzling results

08/09/2018 11:52AM ● By J. Chambless

'Phillip's Mill' by Randall Graham.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The process of making art is fascinating for those who can't imagine how the magic is done, as well as for other artists who can appreciate the often laborious path to a finished work. Gallery 222, a three-room showcase in downtown Malvern, is hosting “Trust the Process,” a wide-reaching exhibition that brings together some regional and national artists whose work is always interesting and sometimes utterly dazzling.

The theme of the show, which continues through Aug. 25, is exploring the preparatory works as well as the completed paintings, and to offer a chance for art lovers to pick up a small piece that's perhaps more in their price range.

The works are mixed in each gallery, and they play off one another very well, thanks to curator/artist Randall Graham and his thoughtful arrangement of the show. In one room, with a blend of graphite sketches and painted studies, you will be struck by several standouts. Evan Kitson's masterful “Glove” and “Pear-After Uglow” reflect a painterly touch with pencil. Between them is “Great Plains, Ancient Clouds,” a charcoal/pastel by Robert Wellings that captures a brooding sky and endless, flat landscape, with the paper torn at the edges, as if it has been battered by the storm.

Randall Graham's “Her Story,” a nude woman gazing out at a blue-green expanse of open water, is particularly fine; and his “Phillip's Mill,” a sunny oil of a local landmark, radiates summertime heat.

The central room at Gallery 222 has a series of four oil studies of faces by Martin Campos that seem to coalesce out of the smeared paint as you watch. Patrick Lee's five black-and-white acrylics have a sketchy, dynamic energy. But Erin Anderson's four portraits of women are dazzling. Tightly focused on the faces of three women, they are nearly photo-realist in their detail.

In the main gallery, though, Anderson goes for the knockout punch with fully realized, ultra-detailed oil portraits done on copper panels. The nude subject of “The Vet,” the larger of the works, regards the viewer with a gaze that's confident and beguiling, and she almost seems to breathe.

Similarly, the much smaller “Heather With Headwinds” captures a sitter with eyes closed and a smile, her skin rendered so masterfully that you will swear you see her move. The figures are astonishing, but the panels are also expressively burnished, giving a sinuous movement around the figures.

Adam Vinson won't be a familiar name locally, but he's known for trompe l'oeil works, exemplified here by “Bomber,” which shows a photo of a plane with old nails laid across it. The 3-D magic is tinkered with in several small works by Vinson that isolate faces from old snapshots, perhaps, that emerge from sketchy backgrounds or are partially obscured by swipes of paint. By loosening up in these new works, Vinson is showing a new direction, and it's a striking one.

There's a gouache by Bo Bartlett, “Wheaton Island,” as a superstar attention-getter, but Alexandra Tyng makes a bigger statement with “Off-Season Jim Thorpe,” a huge view of the historic architecture and tourist tackiness of the Pennsylvania town. Her small study of part of the scene, which hangs nearby, is no less intriguing.

Jenn Warpole's “Devon Horse Show 2” is a sketchy oil of a scene that will be familiar to many area equestrians, and Even Kitson shows two graphite works – “Heather” and “Joanne” – that have a strong presence. But between them is a tour de force oil by Robert Wellings, titled “Distant Lights, Dusk.” It's a magical expanse of late-dusk sky, with thin lines and dots of street lights in the distance. The sense of soaring space, and the way the work comes together only at a distance, is a feat of brushwork that lets the viewer connect the dots.

Kennett Square artist Neilson Carlin shows two charcoal studies and two finished paintings – “Fr. Jacques Hamel” and “St. Lucy” – that are supremely skillful, and packed with symbolic resonance and high drama.

In the gallery kitchen/mingling area, don't miss smaller works by Randall Graham that are displayed on shelves. There are three floral studies and three portraits, including “Ben Simmons,” which packs a lot of character detail into a small area.

The new gallery has taken a big step forward with this show, bringing in some superstars that will delight visitors with works that are consistently challenging and lovely. “Trust the Process” is well worth checking out before it leaves at the end of the month.

Gallery 222 is at 222 E. King St., Malvern. Visit www.gallery222malvern.com.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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