Robert Percy
Marin County, CA

Representing Gallery: I.Wolk Gallery, St Helena, Ca.,

Robert Percy,… allowed his art to evolve into one of the contemporary art world’s most distinctive visual expressions of transcultural spiritual beauty. Percy’s unusual use of line, the transcultural nature of his artistic orientation, and the intuitive means he accesses in creating his paintings all serve to magnify the same intention common to early modernist abstract art—a magnification of awareness of prior unity and the absolute. By allowing his intuitive intelligence to govern his uses of line and color via spontaneity and chance, his art expresses a vivid sensibility of radiant beauty, one in which commonplace melodramatic self-consciousness is largely absent. Yet his paintings simultaneously initiate in the participatory viewer an enriched awareness of the infinite depth of consciousness itself. Percy has worked with line in many forms throughout his decades of making art, and his use of line in his paintings convey a visual geography between form and formless. The back-to-front saturation of color in his work diffuses the vertical and horizontal compositional grid, repeatedly lending a sense of visual beauty bleeding through a curtain, or “body” of life. Percy does not speak of abstraction as a style; he speaks of the inherent association of “abstraction” and “seeing.” Similarly, he speaks of his artistic process as a partnership in making a painting; he is a partner with the paper, the ink, the casein (or milk paint), the brushes, the water used, the objects he sometimes uses to emboss a work. Percy’s calligraphic uses of brushes in his paintings, his preferences for Sumi-e ink, casein, and kozo paper, and a general Asian quality in his art that evolved from his trips to China and Japan, come together to erase any east-west dichotomy. This transcultural aspect of Percy’s work expresses not so much a self-conscious “borrowing” of Asian aesthetic as a demonstration of “Asia as Method,” a reference made by scholar and Guggenheim Museum curator Alexandra Munroe to a 1960 lecture of that title by the Japanese scholar of Chinese literature Takeuchji Yoshimi. Robert Percy currently lives and works in Marin County, California. author: B. Kalivac Carroll, 2014, , press release for Hammerfriar Gallery art show: “Robert Percy, Gordon Onslow Ford, & John Anderson, May, 2014”

Robert Percy writes:  In 1993 the surreal figures and spaces I was composing and painting for 20 years were replaced by free floating spontaneous marks and directional lines. In the summer of 1996 I studied Chinese painting and calligraphy in Hangzhou China. I discovered there that the soft brush, lacquer-free ink, handmade paper and table top method of painting best suited my mark and line paintings. Ink on paper allows no hesitation when painting and no painting over “mistakes” This intensity Is a very focusing discipline while painting.  In addition, the manner in which the paper takes and holds the sumi-e ink is immediate, strong and quite exquisite.

In 2004 I went to southern and central Japan to visit washi (hand made paper) studios. The variety and refined quality of paper was astonishing and inspiring. Since then I have been working on the paper itself before any marks are painted. I will often drench the paper in clear water and this will leave unique and subtle wrinkles. Then I emboss the paper with found objects and this adds another layer of raised marks. Using a flat brush and soft, gentle brush strokes of sumi-e ink reveals the water and embossed traces. The paper I use is the thinnest possible.  I apply paint to the back of the paper and expect the paint to soak through to the front, to the face of the painting. Backside painting allows ‘chance’ to occur and removes much of the my own particular controlling intent. Turning the paper over for the first time can be a thrilling surprise and a delight.

Since my first original drawing in 1973 all of my work has used vertical, horizontal, angular and/or circular lines as both compositional elements and as the content meaning. By using directional lines I risk giving the paintings the look of textile design.  But textile design is about appearances only, decorative only, and therefore is without the meaning content of my paintings.

My hope is that the painting will be a surprise and familiar, interesting, provoking, intriguing, beautiful or profound. Regardless of what a viewer does see and feel, there is no academic training needed to see and to feel the paintings.

I have painted for the first 25 years under the influence of everything western. But here in the Bay area, the eastern Pacific rim, there is a strong and important mix of east and west. My paintings are my contributions to a language of surprise and delight.