Perhaps more so than the general populace, artists are able to find beauty and inspiration in the chaos of entropy. Gala Bent is a Seattle artist who uses gouache and graphite to explore the gracefully inevitable failure of enforced order. Bent's compositions play with the tension between clearly delineated geometric abstraction and sinuously free form pattern fields. Her visual images are so direct that it's possible to read them on a visceral level while entirely missing the wellspring of references that rest beneath the surface of her meticulously rendered drawings. But it would be doing Bent an enormous injustice to not look deeper.
There is a deceptive simplicity to Bent's drawings, and at first glance, their sense of whimsy overshadows their underbelly of methodical research. Bent thinks very deliberately about her place in the world, and this sense of inquiry carries over in a very literal way to the precision of her compositions.
"I like things that I respond to in a physical, aesthetic way," she explains to me. "But as a person, I just really love to dig and dig and dig... I like it when there's a whole series of layers underneath."
After a brief miscommunication over directions that leads to a rather informative exploratory bicycle mission of the alleyways around Qwest Field, we meet in the high-ceilinged Pioneer Square studio that Bent shares with her husband, fellow artist Zack Bent. Bent and her husband create in different mediums, but she explains that they work together in that they are one another's biggest critic and advocate, and that their strengths and weaknesses are staggered in complimentary ways. The artist couple has three young sons, so their lives involve a great deal of juggling between creative and family lives. Their paintings and sculptures stand in easy dialogue on separate ends of the room.
"We are both concerned with the architectural," she tells me, gesturing towards the stacks of life-sized Lincoln Logs that rest on Zack's side of the studio.
Bent's compositions tend to focus on the interplay between angular and organic forms. Her drawings at times resemble tornadoes – densely clustered masses of line and plane that gradually open into light colored washes or entirely empty space.
"I very much idealize geometric abstraction," Bent tells me, adding that her appreciation of the geometric has deepened over the years until she has come to see it as almost "a romantic ideal." She sees the "furry" portions of her works as representing the more human, realistic side of life, the "faltering part... where everything cracks or falls apart." Bent describes this idea in greater detail on her blog, writing that she is "fascinated by the idealistic glory of the philosophy of architecture, especially when it is brought into real space and has to sustain itself against the degrading process of time and use. The most fancy buildings still leak and peel. People still have to deposit their raw sewage inside them, and weather delivers continual erosion to their shells."
ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW
(ABOVE) I Am Focusing All My Attention, 2010; (BELOW) I Am Focusing All My Attention Detail, 2010 - G. Gibson Gallery
Paper Architecture: Reflecting Pool (I Smell Like Myself), 2011 - G. Gibson Gallery
29 August, 2011