POETRY OF LIGHT: Paintings by Roy Perkinson

Exhibition Dates: September 10 – October 4
Reception: September 12
Artist Talk: September 27

Interview with Roy Perkinson

DD: What do you mean by “the poetry of light,” since you’re an artist, not a poet?

RP: It’s true that I’m not literally making poetry, but for a long time I’ve been interested in the parallels between painting and poetry, or at least painting as I practice it. It seems to me that the poems I admire most are those in which there is a kind of magic that is produced by resonances of sound and meaning, and that this consonance of words and meaning conjures up certain feelings in the reader. Similarly, if I am successful in juxtaposing colors and shapes in an effective way, I hope to engender, as if by magic, certain feelings or moods in the viewer. And I’ve come to realize that the source of this magic stems from light itself: if I have selected and presented light in a scene in the way that I judge to be successful, I hope the viewer will perceive the mood and feeling that I am trying to express. I love it when someone looks at one of my paintings and says, “I just love the feeling of light in your work.”

 "The Summit at Dusk," oil on canvas, 36 x 96"

"The Summit at Dusk," oil on canvas, 36 x 96"

DD: Can you share your initial considerations when starting a new painting?

RP: Oh yes! Composition is terribly important. By that, I mean what one might call the abstract structure or scaffolding that underpins the things one sees in the painting. I am fascinated by how much the overall effect of any painting can be weakened if, say, the central interest in the painting is shifted just slightly in one direction or another. Or how critically important it is to select how a scene is cropped – sometimes there can be competing “stories” in a scene I’m considering painting, and if I’m not careful in what I put in or leave out, the overall effect of a painting can be diminished. Landscape painters in the past often commented on trying to capture the première pensée, the “first thought” or first impression that makes one fall in love with a particular scene. The hard thing is to hold true to that initial impulse and to find a way to express it.

 "Sun and Shadows," pastel, 18 x 24"

"Sun and Shadows," pastel, 18 x 24"

DD: How do you decide what to paint?

RP: I’ve never been able to predict or prearrange an idea for a painting. It’s like being at a gathering of people and suddenly glimpsing someone who takes your breath away – someone you know you want to spend time with. How does one explain that?! I don’t know, but it’s certainly exciting and fun. But I have thought about whether there are certain characteristics that tend to grab my attention in this way. Perhaps the key thing is a quality of light that creates at least a bit of drama in a scene and something unexpected. I am especially fond of lighting in which warm colors are set off by cool colors. Albert Bierstadt and John Singer Sargent were masters at capturing these kind of color relationships. I’ve used the analogy between painting and poetry, but I also feel that the opposition of warm and cool colors has a musical analogy in major and minor keys. When working in my studio, I’m fond of listening to Chopin’s nocturnes for piano, which are filled with these fabulous contrasts of major and minor keys.

 "Clouds over Frenchman Bay," oil on canvas, 30 x 40"

"Clouds over Frenchman Bay," oil on canvas, 30 x 40"