New Canaan Exhibit Honors Connecticut Artist Who Saw the World in Cross-Sections of Trees

 
Artist Bryan Nash Gill in his New Hartford studio.

Artist Bryan Nash Gill in his New Hartford studio.

Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times

Artists and photographers have found portals to the slipstream underlying all things—the place where the impossible-to-articulate profundity of the world resides—through abstracting the lines of wrinkled palms and faces, for example, or abstracting the harsher places on the planet in aerial images. The decay in the details of abandoned buildings improbably tells a narrative that hints at the secret of life—in code that eludes cognitive understanding, and through spectral clues that vanish the moment they’re examined.

But the sublimely impactful feeling the artwork engenders always remains—as a just-below-conscious-thought imprint, like DNA, of a deeper, broader meaning, as the ripples of the essences of life that spread not unlike the growth rings in a cross-section of a felled tree.

Bryan Nash Gill had become an artist able to unlock the pattern language of the unsayable before he was felled far before his time at age 51 last May.

He did so by brilliantly re-harnessing imagery so common, so simple, that none but an aesthetic seer would recognize it as an artistic quantum leap.

The process is described by Heather Gaudio Fine Art in New Canaan, which is celebrating the life and work of Gill in an exhibition, The Process of Discovery, which opens Jan. 30. (Above, "Ash", 2003)

The artist collected wood on his 10-acre property, Beckwith Brook Farm, in New Hartford, Connecticut, gathering material from fallen or dead indigenous trees including ash, oak, locust, spruce, willow, pine and maple, among others. In his 2,800 square foot, two-story studio that he built by hand, Gill cut cross-sections of trunks or branches, planed and sanded the surfaces, burned and brushed them, sealed the wood and carefully applied ink. He then transferred the image to handmade Japanese rice paper (washi) by rubbing with his hand or using the bowl of a spoon capturing the growth rings and imperfections in vivid detail. “In graduate school, I concluded that art is (or should be) an experience that brings you closer to understanding yourself in relation to your surroundings…” offered Gill. “It is a discovery process.”

“This is my sanctuary,” Gill told The Litchfield County Times in reference to his studio. “I’ve been in a bad mood and I have come in here and felt better. Just like you do when you take a walk in the woods.”

Of his work, he said, “This is what sustains me. I try and capture the essence of the wood and bring that out in my relief prints. Wood gives me a good feeling and I look into the layering and growth lines to find something beautiful, unique and meaningful. I once was driving in Maine behind a lumber truck loaded with timber and I saw shapes and lines in the ends of the wood that were piled high and sticking off the truck.”

Gill “passed away unexpectedly of natural causes” last May 17. Born in Hartford Nov. 3, 1961, “He was the loving husband of Gina (Kiss) Gill for 12 years,” his obituary said. The LCT magazine feature on Gill—one of several County Times stories on the artist—noted that Gina operates a sustainable farm on the property, practicing organic gardening during the summer months and preparing farm baskets for select clients.

The show at Heather Gaudio Fine Art presents woodcuts, pastels, monoprints and sculpture highlighting the breadth of the contemporary artist’s talent, according to a release from the gallery.

Gill was a prolific artist and created a large body of work throughout his life, though he is best known for his sculptures and large-scale relief prints of wood cross-sections, the release says. “Trees are beautiful to look at…I have been drawing them for years and recently have started looking inside which has brought me closer to these gentle giants we live among,” said Gill.

In 2012, Princeton Architectural Press released 31 original prints by the artist in a book entitled Woodcut. The publication received widespread acclaim and was named to the New York Times Style Magazine’s list of “The Best in Books.”  According to the gallery, Stephen Hayman of the Times wrote, “It’s a strangely moving experience to flip through Woodcut…one is struck by Gill’s method – cutting blocks with a chain saw, sanding them down, burning them and sealing them with shellac – amplifies the events in the life of a tree…”

In the same year, Martha Stewart Living profiled the artist in The Makers Series and produced a documentary capturing Gill in his studio, the gallery noted.

The exhibition at  Heather Gaudio Fine Art , the artist’s first solo show at the gallery, will open on Thursday, Jan. 30, and close on Saturday, March 22. The gallery invites guests to attend a reception in honor of  Gill on Saturday, March 1, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Above, "Mountain Quall", 1988)

For more information, call the gallery at (203) 801-9590 or see its website.

Gill was born and raised in northwestern Connecticut and his body of  work, including sculptures, a vast collection of pastels, monoprints and woodcuts are heavily influenced by the New England countryside, the gallery said. His work is held in many private and public collections, including those of IBM, aiser Permanente and the Boston Public Library.

For more on the artist see the website at www.bryannashgill.com

 

New Canaan Exhibit Honors Connecticut Artist Who Saw the World in Cross-Sections of Trees

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