Artist Reception: April 24 2014, 6-9:30pm
The vibrant oil paintings of Nicholas Coley are painted on location in the San Francisco Bay area ‘en plein aire’, playing brilliant color against the iconic shapes of cypress trees, hills and coastline. Each painting is saturated in the glowing light reflected off hills and sparkling ocean, filtering through the tall stands of trees, so that one only has to gaze at the painting to be fully immersed in the place and the light.
My painting has its roots in the fanatical ethos of a small school in the South of France which made Cezanne its figurehead and had a very black and white view of art history. L’ecole Marchutz was a great place to get rooted in a concrete perspective of the fundamentals and a format of painting from real life. Twenty years later, I still paint on location, finding myself in relation to a place and seeking unity with my surroundings. Only now I’ve exchanged the south of France for the open-air nut house that is San Francisco.
Coming home to the states and studying art was an ambiguous affair, where pluralism and general creativity replaced the achievements of a rooted tradition. Influences such as Wolf Kahn and other Bay Area figures allowed color theory to take a back seat to a generally looser love of all color and made more of a proclamation with bold brushwork and gestural lines. I looked for compositions with energy and tried to impress the immediacy and rush of painting beside major thoroughfares and in parking lots.
More recently the matter of composition has played a prevalent role in my work, as I experiment with less conventional dynamics to arrange the urban and natural environments. For example, in my Market & Pearl Street series, I use the empty asphalt of the street to create a sparse and uncluttered majority of the canvas and forcing detail and subject matter to the periphery. Along the edge I use the darkened, unresolved negative space of a row of cars as its own color field, creating reductive and raw elements of form and a chance to interpret color as broad fields which unifies for a spontaneous, perceptual painting as one might see if blinded by sun.
I see no end to the possibilities of painting out in the world. Just stand there long enough until the light shimmers off the pavement, or until you see the comforting pattern of parking meters, the side view mirrors, the shadows under cars. If you love nature enough, you will see it even here, in our urban world.
Nicholas Coley was born in Connecticut in 1971 and raised in Muir Beach, California. He Studied art at L’ecole des Beaux Arts in Aix-en-Provence and at the Marchutz school in Le Tholonet, France. He holds a BA in painting from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and lived, studied, and painted for a year in a Vietnamese Buddhist Monastery in southwestern France.
Nicholas has traveled and painted extensively throughout Europe selling his work on the Charles Bridge in Prague, the Campo San Polo in Venice, and from the freshly harvested fields outside Duras, France before taking the trans-Siberian railroad to China. He has painted and lived in Seattle and Portland before returning to the Bay Area in 2000.
He now has a baby boy (and one in the oven!) with a great gal and is living the dream of a self made artist supporting his family in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.