Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Finding the hidden message

Artist Brad Durham explores quiet meanings

Express Staff Writer

"Dreaming of Silence" by Brad Durham, Oil on canvas at Anne Reed Gallery.

Brad Durham uses nature as a metaphor for his art, which is much more than making observations. Durham likes to go below the surface of organic matter and dig up deeper meaning or what he calls, "Goethean passage."

"Memories and stains are the same to me," Durham said. "We have to look through stains to understand how we have memory. It is crucial to leave evidence of an experience."

Durham is a landscape painter who focuses on plants and foregrounds. He paints recognizable plants underneath gigantic puffy clouds, but his paintings are intimate and have a veil or thin ethereal layer that allows the imagination to go beyond the scene.

"There is structure in the universe, and we all participate in it," he said. "I think about art as being intimate and romantic, not cerebral."

Durham's work has evolved from specific, constructed ideas that were very architectural to more sensual and graceful landscape paintings. He said that after painting for so long he has become very good at his craft, but that it is possible to kill the idea of the art because craft can become so prominent.

"I came to understand that I was a landscape painter and that painting ultimately has to come from a visual experience," Durham said. "You need to live a conscious life and be aware of your actions, develop a certain methodology and communicate as well as stay in check with what you are doing."

Durham will have an exhibition of his work at the Anne Reed Gallery in Ketchum, his second solo show. The work exhibited will be all landscapes, and all oil on canvas. He will be present for Gallery Walk on Friday, March 6, from 6-9 p.m.

"My paintings are meant to be meditations," Durham said. "I like it when I have distilled the work down to its essence, and I get to the bottom of things. As we get older and need to understand the bottom line, it's crucial to not cloud ideas with anything else. The slow reading of my paintings is similar to a Rothko or Giacometti."

Durham works one step at a time and his work evolves from having experiences over and over again. He said he is more of a communicator than an artist.

"I don't like to call myself an artist because it has baggage and cultural issues," Durham said. "I have meaningful dialogue and participate in culture in a significant way."

People usually collect more than one of Durham's paintings because his work is so meditative and it is an honest and authentic means of expression. He is not sidetracked by the commercialism of art or how clever art can get.

"Paintings offer a great opportunity for making decisions about aesthetics and life," Durham said. "I value honest expression because it is a feeling inside and it's crucial that the feeling is authentic. Good paintings will always trigger authenticity."

Sabina Dana Plasse:

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