John King and Scott Plear in attendance from 1-4 pm

John King – Artist Statement

I’ve been an abstract painter since the early 1970s. When I’m not painting I often wrestle with the following questions: How relevant are abstract paintings like mine in which the subject is about states of feeling and aesthetics, when most art galleries and art museums are showcasing primarily conceptual art about politics, social issues or a personal narrative? Do my abstract paintings reveal that I’ve learned how to use my natural talents with some measure of originality and, if not, what are my options? Is it still possible for me to create abstract paintings that are relevant in the 21stcentury, that look original and are true to my personal instincts? These questions intrigue me, although when I remind myself that there are no simple answers I feel relieved, liberated and sometimes even inspired.

Questions about being relevant, original and authentic are intriguing, but my time is usually better spent in the studio trying to start a new painting or finish one. I’m reassured by Robert Motherwell’s statement: “Painting is a medium in which the mind can actualize itself; it is a medium of thought”. (American abstract painter, 1915-1991).

My paintings are about states of feeling created by presenting an eccentric combination of lines, textures, shapes, values/tones and colours held in equilibrium. I enjoy the challenge of trying to create a painting that is first and foremost an object trying to share the same physical space as the viewer while simultaneously creating the illusion of a different world order within a painted rectangle. I deliberately begin each painting spontaneously with a single brushstroke and no sketch beforehand. The first brushstroke creates the need for a second brushstroke, which in turn suggests a third, and so on. It’s similar to how jazz musicians improvise as they perform. My goal is for each painting to evolve similar to a spontaneous conversation among four actors: the canvas, the paint, the brush and myself. With no pre-planning, I’m always surprised to see shapes emerge that remind me of places, human anatomy, aquatic life, animals, plants, etc. If a shape or line consistently reminds me of something to the point of distraction, I’ll revise the painting to make it disappear or be less obvious. Once I begin a new painting, I’m preoccupied with creating a visually sustaining image, and questions about being historically relevant or original quickly disappear.

In my painting process I try to rely solely on my intuition for guidance. It’s proven to be a reliable compass and the best tool I’ve found for coaxing states of feeling and eccentric images out of my subconscious mind. When painting I consult my rational critical mind as seldom as possible, especially in the early stages. Adopting a judgemental approach too soon can sabotage my creative process. Over the years I’ve developed various studio tricks to keep my subconscious mind relatively engaged and my rational brain distracted.

My 2018 paintings were inspired after I revived several of my interests from the 1970s: (1) Notan, a Japanese design concept involving the balance of light and dark shapes; (2) paintings with visually ambiguous images that encourage us to perceive a shape in two ways — as part of the background of the painting and also as a shape that sits in front of the background; and (3) the paintings of Joan Miro (Spanish painter, 1893-1983). The first art book I owned was about Miro. Forty-five years later I’m still inspired by his words: “When I stand in front of a canvas, I never know what I’m going to do – and nobody is more surprised than I am at what comes out. … Little by little, I’ve reached the stage of using only a small number of forms and colors. It’s not the first time that painting has been done with a very narrow range of colors… I always feel the need to achieve the maximum of intensity with the minimum of means.”

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Biographical Notes

John King is an abstract painter known for bold brushstrokes reminiscent of Asian calligraphy and compositions influenced by abstract expressionism. His recent paintings incorporate large biomorphic shapes and curvilinear lines painted in a narrow palette of black, cream and grey. King was born in Vancouver, B.C., in 1949 and has lived most of his life in western Canada. In 1971 he completed a BFA degree in sculpture from the University of Manitoba and later worked in Winnipeg as a public-school art teacher. King moved to Edmonton in 1974 to develop his interest in abstract painting. In the following seventeen years, he completed a Master’s degree in painting at the University of Alberta, participated in two Artist’s Workshops at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan and worked as an art educator at the Edmonton Art Gallery. In 1991, King returned to Winnipeg where he continues to maintain an active studio. King’s paintings have been included in solo and group exhibitions in western Canada and his works are in various private and public collections.